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Twenty20 must be given room to breathe

Alec Stewart - former England captain | 15:40 UK time, Friday, 11 July 2008

Twenty20 cricket has grabbed all the headlines and the public's imagination over the last four or five years.

Today BBC Sport broke the story about the possible introduction of a new T20 league to begin in 2010, which in effect is the English version of the Indian Premier League.

There will be more money, more exposure to the game, and I just hope that this is going to be long-term.

I want the finances of this to be for the good of the game and the longevity of the game. I don't want someone diving in, making lots of money and running away.

For me the most important thing is still international Test cricket. It always has to be a player's ultimate ambition to get a Test cap, because in Test cricket, over five days, your talent, your ability and your mental strength is tested, and only the very best survive.

However, Twenty20 cricket is here. It's exciting, it's exposing new talent and big money can be earned. So we have to find room for it, but not to the detriment of Test cricket.

Andrew Flintoff will surely play IPL or the new T20 at some point

The new T20 organisers say there will have to be 12 homegrown players in a squad, of which three have to be under-23. That would make it an appealing game to the up-and-coming youngsters.

And ideally, with the money that's coming into the game, whereas talented young sportsmen have previously chosen to pursue a professional football career, hopefully they'll go the cricket route.

Players have short careers and are not going to turn down the opportunity of playing in one or other of these leagues. So there have to be two windows created each year.

You would have a separate IPL season, and another window later in the year where there's no international cricket for the T20 to take place.

You can't have the situation next summer where Sri Lanka might be sending over a B team for the England tour because their main players - who I understand aren't centrally contracted to their board - are making their money in the IPL.

That situation cannot arise again. The ICC's future tours committee has to sit down and do what's best for the game now and in the future. If they do that properly there's room for everything.

I may add that I don't want Twenty20 cricket to flood the market. This year, each county has played 10 group games, and overal attendance figures for the competition are up because there have been more games.

But in the individual games I've witnessed the crowds are actually down compared to last year.

We want people to turn up because each match is viewed as a special occasion.Less is more.


  • Comment number 1.

    T20 will one day be the only form of cricket. Then those who can will take the money and run and the game will be ruined forever.
    Cricket is definately on the down.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article. Stewart is right, test cricket cannot be compromised. T20 can only ever be the hors d'oeuvre - a snack and nothing more. If it is allowed to dominate, cricket as a sport will die.
    Test cricketers should be properly rewarded and a world championship as Ricky Ponting has suggested must be introduced sooner rather than later.

  • Comment number 3.

    There should certainly be some kind of World championships for Test sides in my opinion. I know it could be complicated but there are ways it can be done and for test crickets interest it needs to be done!

  • Comment number 4.

    Yes there is room for T20, but we must keep test cricket alive. It is the ultimate. Its a tactical game, whereas T20 is very much crash bang wallop. You will never beat the first day of a test match at lords.

    I liked what geoff boycott said in commentary today and its very much what alec is saying to. There should be a window of x amount of weeks to play the IPL.

    The thing that worries me with this proposal is what is going to happen to counties like essex, sussex and one or two others. This is a franchise set up, so are these teams going to miss out? There has been more T20 this year, but i think that many of the games have been one sided.

    I make note of 2 recent games where essex played. first game napier got 158 no and essex got 228. Sussex were never going to win, and second essex got 192 against northants and thaks to a great bowling performance by essex, northants never stood a chance. Is more of a game really better?

  • Comment number 5.

    I think this year is about right: a month set aside practically for domestic 2020. If crowds have been down then there needs to be better advertising of matches (and maybe some better range of music- not merely trying to split eardrums). Less would be less.

  • Comment number 6.

    At the end of the day the future of Test cricket (perhaps sadly) will be decided by India's BCCI the only cricketing superpower in the planet. Next generation of English/Aus/SA/WI cricketers will have the opportunity to make 5 times as much money horning their skills and plying their trade in T20 or 'bikini' cricket in Indian leagues than playing traditional Test cricket. Like the poor Sri Lankan cricketers who can really blame them

  • Comment number 7.

    excellent idea. t20 franchise is the way forward. I would definatley pay to watch birmingham bulls play against london towers or manchester lightening. It wouldnt effect test cricket at all, finish off the boring county structure and bring in lots of money

  • Comment number 8.

    Test cricket will only survive if paying customers go to watch it, especially in other countries. Let's stop playing Bangla Desh and Zimbabwe in tests and save them for the 50 and 20 over cricket they can sell. T20 is the future for commercial reasons so purists must beware they do not kill the golden calf. Take KP out of the post- ashes England side and we're back to the bad old days of the 80's. No-one watches SA v WI anymore and we must not judge test cricket worldwide by English attendances. Too many modern batsmen have averages flattered by performances against so-called 'test' nations. That cheapens test cricket more than T20 ever will.

  • Comment number 9.

    The Twenty20 is so hektic nowadays that everybody who's involved in cricket is wanting to play this format of the game as it is the most exiting.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good article, but I do not understand a few points.

    * What time of the year would this new league be played?
    * There is already no time for IPL give the ICC FTP. We have already seen Aussies and West Indies leave IPL midway for country duty. Where does the ECB think they can find a place for this new league?
    * What are the economics of this new league? How do they expect to generate interest, gate receipts and TV rights in the tune of a billion pounds?
    * How does the ECB expect to lure players who have already signed on to the IPL, and it is the who's who of international cricket. They would like to copy the IPL auction method, but where are they going to generate such cash from?
    * What is the feasibility of mainstream business and economy to pour money into this league like it has been done in India and develop a franchise based system?

    I reckon the ECB would have done some analysis before they have announced this league. However, I would like to see it executed. It is my feeling that it is a gut reaction to counter the IPL and try to keep the center of gravity of cricket in England. Come this year's IPL, I can see a majority of the England T20 experts signing on to the IPL.

  • Comment number 11.

    what the m.c.c. want sounds good for the English game but as the I.P.L. has already been up and running would the Indian,Australian,Pakistan etc; cricket boards want to play ball as the I.P.L suits the southern hemisphere countries when only a 20/20 league in England would suit the northern side

  • Comment number 12.

    I whole-heartily support T20. I was a sceptic until I was taken to watch Kent v Surrey at the Oval recently. The Oval was packed to the rafters and the atmosphere was certainly a few notches above a mid-week day four on a soggy afternoon of a county championship game.

    I can visualise two teams of under 15s going out to play a 20 over game with same verve and panache as their senior counterparts in the country game. I also imagine that PE teachers and club coaches would also be invigorated by this fresh buzz about the game.

    I do however have a strong criticism. The proposed format for the EPL only serves to segregate and make cricket appear even more elitist.

    My point of view is this, the powers that be have a golden opportunity to introduce an FA Cup style T20 competition open to all-comers. It appealed to me to think about a competition that allowed a Dover CC or village team to have their name put into the hat along side Somerset or Durham.

    The FA Cup is essentially the peoples cup in footballing terms yet there appears to be no equivalent in cricket. The FA Cup is open to all registered teams. There are several qualification rounds prior to the top flight teams joining and then it is a straight knock-out process.

    So, instead of an elite group of nine teams playing for a huge prize, why not allow a peoples T20 Cup open to all? What prevents the cricketing powers from opening up the sport to the minnows in the game? Surely the notion that a local club side playing a county brings the game closer to the ordinary man in the street.

    Logistics need not be an issue. I know that here in Kent there are a lot of good grounds that can host games and I am sure that each county is similar in terms of good quality venues.

    So, why is it that the top echelons of the game are cocooning themselves further in exclusivity? As I read between the PR lines, it looks like a case of haves and have-nots again. It feels like self-interest is at heart and not the good of the game.

  • Comment number 13.

    Test cricket in on the down turn. It is evident from some of the players complaining about too much cricket is being played and that they are worn out! Some of them have already pulled out from test cricket tours. Dhoni is a good example. He just announced that due to fatigue, he is not able to go to Sri Lanka for the test series.

    Most of these players are playing IPL, ICL or the English County Leagues with lucrative contracts and they want to preserve their strength and talent to the much needed, much more hyped IPL and the likes where they can earn huge money. Why do they need to sweat for five days under the sun for a meager pay from the national board? Who wants to play boring cricket when they have a chance to swing fours and sixes every ball they face?

    National interest? Sure. First interest is personal and money. Next interest is National! C' on people, it is commonsense!

  • Comment number 14.

    I certainly dont want to see Test Cricket compromised by a form of the game that is a couple of rule changes
    and a hamburger away from Baseball!

    As a county member for over 20 years I am concerned that Alex Stewart doesnt even touch on the impact this may have on the county structure.

    Just who is going to support these new franchise teams? Hybrid teams generated through the weird bidding system and dumped on lets say Birmingham (as Im a Warwickshire member) will not have me rushing through the gates.

    At the end of the day if people are prepared to put millions into cricket then that is for one reason only-to make them more money and not necessarily with the best interests of the game at heart.

    Personally I dont want to see the game destroyed by the blinkered actions of a few who will drop it like a stone when they realise its not going to be the new football.

  • Comment number 15.

    There you go, this plan has already been nipped in the bud even before it began :)

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm disappointed that we are heading towards a 20 team - 2 league - T20 structure.

    The reality is that the sport needs to be self-sustaining economically at below Test Level.

    The reality is sport needs to attract more people to watch it.

    We have a worthless country structure supported by Test revenue. Its bloated and not of the quality needed to bring through enough great test cricketers.

    T20 cricket is a breath of fresh air. I've watched games ebb and flow on the basis of a few six hits. Its brash, exciting, and more fun than a Lords test match. It may actually bring new people into the game.

    It may not reward traditional technical excellence of the test player but it will find its own stars, different but not less worthy.

    But we rest on the safe keeping the counties happy, 20 sides, spreading the talent so thinly that it will be detrimental.

    I've grown up loving test cricket, and loving my county. But in truth although people support counties, they don't turn up and watch very often.

    The genie of T20 cricket is out of the bottle. The ECB can't change that, but the conservative solution offered will only mean that the Indian league, not the English one, will flourish.


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