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Why does everyone want to change cricket? Smaller bats, shot clocks, codes of behaviour and ball tampering seem to be what everyone is talking about. I love Test cricket exactly as it is.
Australia’s reaction to our three miscreants who were guilty of trying to get the ball to swing more to beat South Africa was as extreme as anything I have seen watching sport all my life. It started off with ‘ban them for life’ and ended up with very sizeable suspensions for two of the best players in the world.
The ICC talked about five games, while the Australian public seemed to react as though someone had run over a Koala – certainly a response much worse than that to Andrew Gaff’s punch, which destroyed a young player’s season. The players’ press conferences were agonising to watch.
Reading Ricky Ponting’s latest suggestion about shot clocks being introduced to speed up over rates, I think that this is one of those cases when the suggested reform is no longer a serious issue.
The real problem the ICC will probably never address is that 50-over cricket is on its way out – and, if I recall correctly, one-day cricket was introduced and promoted because Test cricket was boring everybody to death and Kerry Packer thought that cricket under lights would resuscitate the old game.
All the things the media and the national cricket associations hoped for came to pass – big boisterous crowds and excitement. I remember Allan Lamb hitting a six to win a game against Australia. Cricket had become commercial and cool.
Then the powers that be proclaimed that even one-day cricket could be improved and cut the game down from eight hours and 100 overs to three hours and 40 overs. Look at baseball – they play 162 games a year and the games take three hours each. The public need nugget-sized cricket, not a full day of it.
So T20 was developed and the IPL, the Big Bash League and other tournaments in such cricket strongholds as New York, Toronto and Bangladesh were formed. Bring the kids and dance to hit songs whenever a wicket falls.
Now the crowds are questioning the rationale behind one-day cricket, and it seems inevitable it will be changed and merged into 20-over cricket or something similar. This is because both of these brands appeal to the same audience and cannot both survive.
Whether Test cricket will survive is a different question. I know watching Trevor Bailey batting for a whole day for 60 runs is not likely to have patrons queuing for tickets, but suddenly the influence of 20-over cricket has caused a significant increase in the scoring rates in Tests.
No-one can get away with a scoring rate of two per over, and the excitement of watching an edge going for six cannot be denied.
In the end commercial reality will survive, not the ICC rules committees.