Giles Clarke has marked the end of his reign as chairman of the ECB with an uncompromising attack on secret plans to set up a rebel T20 league that he insisted, if it came to pass, could severely damage the fabric of world cricket.
Clarke, who as ICC’s finance and commercial chairman will now be at the forefront of attempts to thwart any plans by Essel Group, told in a farewell speech at Lord’s that has now been made public of how the simple invitation to a formal opening of a new pavilion on a village ground in Somerset had further strengthened his conviction that cricket could not be “traded as a purely commercial activity” and that revenue must benefit the widespread health of the game.
And Eight years since the Indian Premier League caught the fancy of cricket’s global audience, administrators the world over have wrestled with several issues that its success has brought along.
The fact that newer leagues have mushroomed in every country has queered the pitch further. To complicate things even more, while T20 continues to flourish, Test cricket seems to be languishing, leading to aficionados fearing for the health of the purest form of the game.
West Indies great Sir Garfield Sobers is among those, who does not mince words about where Test cricket is headed unless a balance between formats is brought about quickly. “I definitely believe that Test cricket will suffer. Players are retiring from Tests to play T20 and you can’t blame them from a certain point of view. Things have changed. If there was no T20, a lot of players would have continued playing Test cricket,” Sobers said during a teleconference on Monday.
There is probably none who could match the prowess of Sobers, both with the bat and ball, but the 78-year-old from Barbados is not sure where he would have fitted in the current scheme of things. “I can’t tell you that. One-day cricket… I didn’t play a lot of it. I played in England but it’s difficult for me to say whether I might have been good or bad at T20. Who knows? It’s a different type of cricket,” said Sobers, who is the ambassador of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League that will be played between June 20 and July 26.
While it’s a fact that the longer formats have taken a beating owing to T20’s success, purists have been accused of being overly critical of this format. Sobers reckons: “Whether players want to play Tests or T20, it’s up to them. I believe Test cricket is very important. If I had to play between the two, I would probably choose Test cricket because I think the finance in both areas is quite good.
“You have T20 and one player can go to all parts of the world – Australia, South Africa, India and come to the West Indies because they are all different times of the year. He can travel all over the world and can benefit financially – probably more than he can do in Test cricket.”