Federation of International Cricketers’ Association CEO Tony Irish has warned that the lure of Twenty20 leagues like IPL and Big Bash is jeopardising the future of Test cricket, which will struggle to survive if the ICC does not take immediate action.
Irish believes that bilateral Test cricket will die if the ICC does not take introduce “radical changes” to the format.
ICC CEO Dave Richardson has ruled out any change before 2019 which is when the current Future Tours Program ends, but Irish feels that it will be too late.
“If we wait until 2019 then bilateral cricket around the world is going to be in real trouble,” Irish told the London Telegraph.
Giving out examples of West Indies players like Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, who have opted for freelance cricket over national duties, Irish said that the threat is real.
“The worrying thing is that the players are telling us that if things don’t change they will be turning more to T20 leagues. It varies from country to country. Countries where players are well paid and Test cricket is stronger have a big affinity to Test cricket.
“But in many countries that is not the case. You have to think big picture. You want to keep Test cricket strong in a number of countries so players want to play the format and there is investment in the format.
“Everyone in cricket has now got to the point where we need significant and proper changes. ICC events are strong because they have context but bilateral cricket is struggling. What we are trying to impress upon the administrators is that it is not just the commercial value and the fan interest that is dwindling, but players are starting to turn away from the game because they have an alternative market now.
“The two T20 leagues (IPL and Big Bash) are an internal market and free agency is on the rise. The West Indies are just a forerunner of the free agency change and we have got to do what we can to make international cricket as attractive as it can be to players,” he said.
However, Irish admitted that despite the growth of T20 market everywhere, players from countries like India and Australia still value Test cricket.
“Keeping the standard of Test cricket high really is a lot to do with how much the players value that format. In England, Australia, South Africa, and India to a certain extent, players really value that format. They will be responsible for keeping standards high. But perhaps not elsewhere,” said Irish.