Widespread opposition to four-day Tests among the current generation of international cricketers has little chance of abating unless the ICC and member boards provide far greater details as to how the move would fit within future plans for the global game.
England’s vice-captain Ben Stokes, India’s captain Virat Kohli and Australia’s captain Tim Paine have been the loudest voices in opposition to a prospective move to four-day matches in the World Test Championship from 2023, which, as first revealed by ESPNcricinfo, is currently under serious consideration by member boards and is set to be tabled for the ICC’s cricket committee later this year.
But away from the rhetoric about “real cricket” in the words of Ian Botham or reference to four-day matches as “easy cricket” according to Stokes, the executive chairman of the Federation of International Cricketers Associations, the players’ global body, Tony Irish has articulated that the only way this opposition has a chance of dissipating is if the players are brought into the fold to discuss how a move to four-day Tests would do more than simply free up days in the calendar in the cycle from 2023 to 2031.
“We continue to follow this issue closely and understand that discussions are taking place at various levels on this,” Irish said in a FICA release. “From our discussions with players around the world, and our global survey data, it is clear that there is currently a lot of negative sentiment, within the global collective of players, towards such a significant change to the game’s most traditional format.
“Given the obvious cricketing implications, if the ICC and/or Boards do want to make a broader case for 4-day Test cricket, we would need to clearly understand what both the economic and scheduling benefits would be, so we can discuss that with players and gauge genuine collective feedback. It is particularly important for us, and the players, to understand how any additional calendar space in the playing schedule would be used.”
Irish, who recently took up the role as head of the professional cricketers association in England in addition to his FICA role, stressed that Test cricket’s success and endurance has long been rooted in the fundamental belief of the players that it is the ultimate for the game. As such, they will look at any mooted changes to the format most carefully.
“Making a fundamental change simply in order to provide calendar space to fill with additional or meaningless cricket is clearly not something we can support,” Irish said. “Cricket’s global structure desperately needs clarity, rather than further confusion.
“Until such a time as we and the players are provided with the full picture and compelling reasons for change, we remain supportive of 5-day Test cricket, and would expect significant player resistance if a shift to that is imposed on players by the ICC and/or Boards. Test cricket is a cherished format of the game and it needs player support and buy in to survive. We urge those making decisions to understand that.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo