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The T20 threat to international cricket

October 27, 2010

It’s become a commonplace assumption to fear that some countries international sides are being undermined by the financial rewards from T20 franchises – particularly the West Indies where Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard choose not to sign national contracts to allow them the opportunity to sign lucrative contracts with sides in India, England and Australia. But West Indies has been in crisis for some time, the regional federation is perennially short of money, and loyalty to a West Indian side (as opposed to the nation states that constitute it) is not always reliable. Bravo, for example, says his first loyalty is to Trinidad and Tobago.

However, the one country where I could not see T20 supplanting the national side was Australia, where the pride in wearing the ‘Baggy Green’ is obvious. So I was genuinely surprised to read from Greg Baum that Mike Hussey had wanted to leave the Chennai squad in the T20 Champions League squad early in order to prepare for the Australian tour of India, the toughest tour in contemporary cricket – and was prevented by Cricket Australia. To quote Baum:

So was history turned on its head: for the first time, a player wanted to make Test cricket his priority, but was forced by his board to persevere with frippery. The word ”franchise” was invoked, which explained everything. The ICL is a lucrative business, and CA has a 25 per cent share in it. It was not one of CA’s finest recent moments.

Hussey arrived in Chandigarh two days before the first Test, and had a poor series. Doug Bollinger arrived at the same time, and broke down in the first Test. Australia lost the series. But its ICL revenue stream was saved.

”Michael had nothing but the best intentions of preparing for and playing for his country as his absolute priority,” said CA chief executive James Sutherland, ”but there was a fine balance between a high-profile, elite club T20 competition and preparing for international cricket.”

The recent chaos in the IPL, with Rajasthan and Punjab’s franchises having their contracts terminated, and the new franchise of Kochi being threatened with a similar sanction may bring about a hiatus in the global march of IPL led T20 dominance, and the ICC really needs to take advantage of that to thrash out an international schedule that protects important test cricket series, while allowing windows for T20 tournaments that don’t force cricketers or their associations to choose between money and international cricket.

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