Melbourne : Australia’s rookie cricketers warn the authorities against succumbing to public demand by going in for more Twenty20 games as that would destroy the 50-over game and breed a generation of players unprepared for the unique demands of Test cricket, the Australian media reports.
A report in The Age says a new survey of 145 Australian, state and rookie-contracted players carried out by the Australian Cricketers Association shows that players overwhelmingly regard Test cricket as sacrosanct and Twenty20 as the third-most important form of the game, though they enjoy playing it and, increasingly, are beginning to treat it as legitimate, serious cricket rather than pure entertainment.
However, half of Cricket Australia’s contracted players and 43 percent of state players professed concern about the impact of Twenty20 on cricket in its more traditional formats.
Asked to describe their concerns, players warned administrators not to be seduced by public demand for more T20, with 56 percent of Australian players saying this would harm attendances for one-day internationals.
While they believe Twenty20 is generally good for their own skill development (with the notable exception of spin bowlers) they think those benefits are restricted mainly to 50-over cricket and worry that future players will not be schooled in the more subtle, mentally demanding arts of the game if matches are allowed to multiply.
As one player said: “T20 promotes low-skilled, weak cricketers instead of developing hardened, first class / Test match players.”
Australian Cricketers Association chief executive Paul Marsh said the short-term opportunities presented by Twenty20 must be balanced against the long-term health of the game.
“We don’t want to get to a point where Twenty20 takes over from other forms of the game because we think it’s going to have a detrimental effect from a skills perspective, from an attendances perspective,” Marsh said.
“If it gets to a point where the public are demanding Twenty20 above all other forms of the game we may not be able to supply it.
“And if you start playing too much Twenty20, and attendances and interest drops off in other forms of the game, you may never recover those.
“From a players’ perspective, you are going to be churning out different types of athletes who may not be able to play these other forms. Maybe down the track if we’re playing too much Twenty20, the other forms of the game will just wither and die.”
International Cricket Council guidelines limit Twenty20 internationals to three per home summer and no more than two against the same opponent, and Cricket Australia has no plans to lobby for more.
One-day cricket remains the greatest money-spinner because it provides greater advertising scope for broadcasters.
However, this could change as the snappy Twenty20 format showcased so effectively in Perth last week grows in popularity and its commercial power is realised on the subcontinent, where the Indian cricket board stands to reap $1.2 billion for the 10-year broadcast rights to the new Indian Premier League.
More than 80 percent of players said they would like to represent an Indian team in the IPL, which brings with it impressive financial rewards and the chance for domestic cricketers to play internationally, while 70 percent of players said the number of Twenty20 internationals should remain the same.
They are overwhelmingly opposed to programming more Twenty20 matches at the expense of Tests although a minority (12 percent of Australian players and 22 percent overall) support more Twenty20 games at the expense of one-day internationals.
Darren Lehmann, the ACA president and former Test and South Australian batsman, is a big fan of Twenty20 but he too warned against overkill, not least so young batsmen still learn the value of patience.
“I reckon it’s a great game. You can see batsmen learning to hit to different areas and bowlers using all the different balls, but we have got to make sure we don’t play too much of it so the skill issue doesn’t come up, so (young) players can still bat for long periods and bowl lots of overs and spinners can work people out,” Lehmann said.
“The fans will want more of it and I think the entertainment is great, but we have to be really careful we still get enough of the other forms. To make a first class hundred you’ve got to bat for between four-and-a-half and six hours, whereas in Twenty20 you would be lucky to face 40 balls. We have to keep that balance.”
Like Cricket Australia, the players believe Twenty20 is achieving its objective of attracting more spectators and should be played “mainly as a domestic competition with limited international games”.
Said spokesman Peter Young: “We’re very excited about Twenty20 but we are also very concerned to find the right place for it, a place that complements but does not compromise the existing formats.”