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'Not what you want to see for Test cricket': Aussie stars sound franchise alarm ahead of international summer

Pat Cummins. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
6th December, 2023
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Senior Australian players have admitted growing concerns over the future of Test cricket, ahead of a summer that includes South Africa sending a second-string side to New Zealand.

Cricket Australia face a tough sell for this home summer, with three Tests against Pakistan to be followed by West Indies touring for a second straight season.

Pakistan have the potential to be a genuine threat, but the West Indies represent a past force that has been eaten away by Twenty20 cricket and other sports for the past decade.

But it is across the Tasman where Test cricket’s biggest challenge will be exemplified.

South Africa officials will prioritise their money-spinning home Twenty20 league over February’s two-Test tour of New Zealand. 

Any players with deals to play in the SA20 will be ordered to stay home and play in that over touring, including nine of the Proteas’ incumbent Test XI.

“That’s not really what you want to see for Test cricket,” Steve Smith told AAP ahead of the summer.

“Ultimately it’s their decision as a board around what’s important to them. But it’s not ideal.”

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Australia’s captain Pat Cummins is also concerned. 

“I don’t know what to think, it’s disappointing to hear,” Cummins said.

“It’s weird, because in Australia Tests are so strong. The crowds are great, millions of people watch each summer. It’s really well supported. 

“But it does feel like there’s probably less countries than five or ten years ago that are really putting all their resources into international cricket. 

“I don’t know the answer, but as a Test cricket lover, I hope there are 20 Test teams in another ten years, not less.”

Cummins is a firm believer that longer Test series are crucial to the game’s survival, with the vast majority of series scheduled for the next two years to be two-match affairs.

“An Ashes series like we just had, that’s very commercial,” Cummins said. 

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“You’ve got millions and millions of eyeballs plus packed stadiums. 

“You’d hope that just like some T20 tournaments are very commercial, you’ve got to find a way to make a Test series commercial for some of these countries.”

Soccer-style international windows have long been feared as a potential outcome, amid the threat of lucrative year-round franchise contracts for players. 

“It might get to (windows) at some point,” Smith said.

“There’s obviously lots of leagues popping up around the world and players want to be involved in them as well.

“I’m not sure it’s quite there yet, but who knows, it could end up like that.”

Australia’s youngest player of this decade, Cameron Green, believes the answer is simply in windows that would stop nations playing Tests during their own T20 league.

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“I’m still really positive of how strong Test cricket is,” Green said. 

“If you ask those guys that are in that (South Africa) predicament if they’d play Test or T20, I think most of them want to play the Test cricket.

“It’s just a matter of a balancing act and being able to work together. 

“Instead of scheduling matches when they know that T20 comp is on, maybe everyone needs to work better together and organise a drop in T20 games and Tests. 

“It could combat that and still give players a break as well.”

© AAP

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