Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
“There is no easy solution”
Legendary India batsman Rahul Dravid and former England captain Nasser Hussain have both called for the Champions Trophy to be restored and a restriction on the number of bi-lateral ODI series played.
Hussain believes that the Champions Trophy, where the top eight ODI sides square off against one another, should replace the World Cup, while Dravid wants the number of bi-lateral ODI series and Twenty20 tournaments slashed in order to accommodate more Test matches.
“A lot of five-match or seven-match one-day series don’t seem to have a context about them,” Dravid said. “The Champions Trophy had a context. Some of these meaningless bilateral one-day games, do they serve the purpose?”
Despite Dravid disagreeing with Hussain’s comments about the Champions Trophy replacing the World Cup, he added that Twenty20 cricket should be restricted to the “franchise” level.
“I would play one-day cricket only as preparation for the 50-over World Cup and the Champions Trophy so you can remove a lot of one-day cricket teams are playing nowadays and fit in Test matches that are required,” Dravid said. “Have a Test Championship that culminates into something once every two years. The World Twenty20 should be every two years. T20 cricket should be franchise cricket except for the major competitions.”
However, Hussain was in favour of restoring the Champions Trophy and renaming it the World Cup.
“Restore the Champions Trophy and call it the World Cup,” he said.
But, one of the big questions that arise from Hussain’s solution is what would lower-ranked teams like Ireland, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe do if they continuously failed to qualify for the ‘new’ World Cup?
The answer, according to Hussain, is: “You got to qualify to sit at that table. You got to be good enough and I’m not sure some sides are. There might be one and they should get there through a play-off. Whoever is ranked eighth at a certain point should have a play-off with Ireland (or the Associate nation that comes through the World Cup Qualifiers) in a three-match ODI series or whatever and they will qualify if they are good.”
Hussain also expressed his infuriation towards the growing number of two-Test series and stated that they do nothing for the longer format of the game, except kill off the dwindling amount of interest left for it.
“As we have seen throughout this Test series [The Ashes] and it happened a little bit with the England-New Zealand series, there is nothing worse than a two-match series,” he said. “Because if a contest does develop between players like Broad v Clarke now, if you get that for just two Test matches, Clarke can just go away and smash someone else. So as things develop and you get to the fifth Test and are waking up in the morning, you know that he has gone against Stuart Broad first up and you know what is going to happen. So you need the contest.”
The former England captain is also one of the only players who refuses to believe in the notion of Test cricket becoming extinct if nothing is done to resurrect interest.
However, he did admit to the fact that the lucrative contracts on offer in the growing number of domestic Twenty20 tournaments around the world are attracting both veterans and youngsters.
“If someone is offering me a couple of million to go and work for six weeks than stand around all year and work for a tenth of that, you are going to be very, very tempted as a young or old player,” Hussain said. “So you are diluting both ends. At the end of your career if you are Kevin Pietersen and you are looking and you find a good deal, the IPL is there, as it was for the Warnes, Gilchrists and Haydens. So you are losing the top bit of the cake. At the bottom, youngsters are coming in (and thinking), ‘shall I work my butt off, play for Essex down at Chelmsford on a nibbling one in April-May or should I go and play six weeks? Not everyone gets a million dollars in T20 but good cash will do really well so that someone might spot me.’ So you are losing that (youth) as well.”
Speaking about the importance of Test cricket, Hussain used the example of England duo Owais Shah and Eoin Morgan, both of whom are top notch Twenty20 players, but fail to score many runs in first-class or Test cricket due to their lack of experience in the longer format.
“Cricket is about rhythm of the game,” Hussain said. “And a lot of these guys that go on the T20 treadmill lose the rhythm of the game and not many come back better first-class cricketers. You look at Shah, you look at Morgan, they don’t suddenly come back and start smashing hundreds and double-hundreds for Essex, Middlesex because you lose the rhythm of batting. Test match cricket is what it is all about – the main course you look after.”
Hussain also believes that the International Cricket Council (ICC) should be focusing their attention on the biggest threats to cricket, like ways to preserve Test cricket and oust match-fixing once and for all, instead of batsmen using stickers and tape on their bats and pads.
“They (the ICC) worry far too much about small stuff,” Hussain said. “They worry about markings on pads. ‘Put tape on that. You have got too many Gray Nichols stickers on your pads.’ People are running on and off the field willy-nilly and you can let them do that. Since 1978 we haven’t had 15 overs an hour around the world. We are not doing anything about that. Just be strong with players.”
Dravid agreed with Hussain’s comments about the ICC and added that powerful cricket boards like the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have to “sacrifice” their iron-like grip of cricketing matters in order to allow the ICC to actually be the governing body of the sport.
“In an ideal scenario we want them to be stronger,” Dravid said. “The ICC is the creation of the boards. The boards have to actually give it that power, that responsibility to be able to run the game. Some of the stronger and more powerful nations have to make a few sacrifices in terms of their power and control and hand over little bit of power to the ICC for it to be able to effectively run and monitor the game.”
Hussain also called on the ICC to concentrate their attention towards the fact that lower-ranked teams are not getting a chance to play against the top Test nations.
“It is not about T20,” Hussain said. “The gap is widening. There is no easy solution. But it is also unfair on some of these sides. I had an argument with the great Michael Holding about West Indies not playing (well) against the moving ball in England. He said which side does play the moving ball that well in April-May in England. Our boys will hate me for saying this, but send them to India or Sri Lanka for a five-Test series and that won’t be easy. That is the issue. (Weaker countries) are at the mercy of sides like England and Australia. They don’t have the cash so they are not sending their Under-19s on tours.”
With Hussain’s comments lingering in the air, he ended off by asking the ICC a question.
“Should they be looking at new markets, as in America and China, and trying to spend all their cash there, and having these ICC tournaments and trying to sell it to these people who don’t really know the game or want to know the game? Or should they be looking at Bangladesh and Zimbabwe who are desperate to play the game, do well and get better and sit down, have a chat and ask them what can they do to help?”