Cricket appears to be at odds with itself about the best way forward and which format of the game is the best to promote across the world.
This has led to an increase in the number of bilateral short-form international series with little context. It also pushes out domestic series well beyond their viability leading to fatigue among fans and players alike. Yet every cricket match is a story that should fit within the tapestry of cricket history.
In 2005, Twenty20 cricket was a brand-new format. It was exciting, innovative and provided a point of difference.
Now, with competitions like the Indian Premier League, the Pakistan Super League, the Big Bash League and others, there is more T20 cricket around than a person could shake a stick at. Chris Gayle has demonstrated that professional cricketers can quite easily make a living as a mercenary, slipping from T20 league to T20 league easily.
There is a monetary imbalance. A player like Pat Cummins can play matches for his IPL side and earn more money for playing fewer overs than he has over the entire Test summer playing for his national side.
This monetary attraction proves difficult to resist, enticing administrators and players alike to play more and schedule more T20 cricket. This has to be addressed.
At the end of the day, cricket needs to decide on a strategy. Is Test cricket the pinnacle or is it another format?
Each format, in and of itself, has its own attractions. There is the spectacle of T20 cricket, the tense chases and strategy of one-day international cricket and the competition between bat and ball that Test cricket provides.
So here is my proposal to revamp international cricket and to include all formats. Begin by paying the international players more money to represent their country. A base Cricket Australia contract earns a player $375,000.
This will help ease the financial pressures on the players. Then commit to playing every Test-playing nation at least once in a home-and-away Test series in a three-year cycle. Play a one-day international and T20 series against the other side at the back end of the tour.
Selectors need to be aware of the players’ need for rest and select different sides for the T20 and ODI series than they do for the Test series.
What of the other leagues? Well, all leagues thrive on star power, but if international cricket is to take primacy, then institute a rule that if a series overlaps with, say, the IPL or another series, the players cannot play those domestic series until the international series is completed.
This frees up the players to pick and choose which domestic competitions they want to play in, knowing that they have to represent their international sides, if picked, before playing in the international competition.
This may also benefit their state four-day competitions because they will want to gain plenty of experience to remind the selectors why they ought to play for their country.
What it could also do, on the flip side, is create a generation of players who simply do not care about representing their country in anything but the T20 component of the tour, thereby freeing them up to play in the IPL, the Pakistan Super League, the Hundred or any other competition that they may wish to play in, provided it does not overlap with the T20 component of the tour.
Scheduling with such certainty would mean fewer meaningless series would be played, like a T20 tour to New Zealand after the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
International cricket has a strong story to tell. But it is in danger of losing that story and decreasing attendances at Tests, BBL matches and domestic games are testament to that fact. How cricket goes about telling that story will be the most intriguing aspect of the next several years.