Tests deserve a bigger audience

D. Murali | Updated on March 09, 2011


Conceding that the conflicts between traditional cricket and expanded Twenty20 competitions cannot go on, Matthew Hayden offers

Conceding that the conflicts between traditional cricket and expanded Twenty20 competitions cannot go on, Matthew Hayden offers a simple solution: ‘Embrace the new wave.' He adds that ‘franchise cricket,' as played in the IPL, has revolutionised the game. “Speaking as a player, there is nothing more exciting and challenging than the opportunity to play amongst the best players in the world. The Twenty20 format is high-impact, colourful and attractive. I truly believe the formula works and that the IPL, the world's premier franchise competition, is here to stay,” reads a snatch from his book Standing My Ground (Harper).

Conflict of scheduling

Taking up then the question of how the rest of the cricket world would work within the competition to everyone's benefit, the author finds that scheduling is the main point of conflict between the IPL and the established game, particularly the clash of players' contracts. This could be avoided in the future, he suggests, by creating a two-month window each year – say, March and April – when other forms of the game take a back seat.

In Hayden's view, the IPL has the ability to generate international fan bases in the same way as English football's Premier League. He recommends, therefore, that some IPL matches should go on the road each year and be played in other countries, to make it a global competition; for, the sooner the world of cricket embraces the IPL, the sooner everyone can find ways to benefit from its massive potential.

World championship

Arguing that Tests deserve a bigger audience, Hayden calls for the creation of a Test cricket world championship. He reasons that if Test cricket is to be the number one form of the game, the public, players and financial backers around the world must be engaged. Ruing that the ICC's Future Tours Program just doesn't work, because it creates too many meaningless matches (like England playing the West Indies at home when they have just toured the Caribbean), the author proposes the establishment of a World Series – say, a ‘Test World Championship' – which would be on a rolling calendar with finals every two years. “And there'd be the iconic series that already exist – the Ashes, and India vs Pakistan – that should remain as five-match series.”

This way, every game means something, urges the author, because every test would then fit into a bigger picture that adds up to a championship. Also because, as he elaborates, it gives players something to aim for, fans a format they can follow, and commercial stakeholders something that is compact and exciting and therefore more marketable, generating additional revenue.

Too many competitions

Among the radical ideas put forth in the book are the author's suggestion to stage cricket indoors – such as in the Millennium Dome, now known as the O2 – moving away from the traditional grounds, and the suggestion to scrap the Champions Trophy. As for the latter, which is a ‘starter' solution to the problem of too many one-day competitions, Hayden avers that World Cups are the key shop windows for international one-day cricket. “ Why have the Champions Trophy (a 50-over tournament) when you've already got a 50-over World Cup?”

Exhorting cricket to draw lessons from the success achieved in other sports, such as the quadrennial cycle of football's World Cup and UEFA European Championships, Hayden sees merit in a similar cycle of the Twenty20 World Cup and the ODI World Cup. To maximise coverage, he advocates that these should be played in odd-numbered years – as football's major competitions, and the Olympics, are in even-numbered years.

Engaging narrative of evergreen interest.

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Published on March 09, 2011
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