Tag Archives: ICC

Cricket balls

Will white ball contracts spell the end for Test cricket?

Test cricket was once the cornerstone of our great game, it was the pinnacle, the ultimate stage on which to showcase your skills. The La Scala of the cricketing world.

Grace, Bradman, Hutton, Lloyd, Gavaskar, Botham, Lillee  — the list goes on of greats whose careers have been defined by their performances in the Test arena. But is this a thing of the past?

In case you missed it, England internationals, Adil Rashid, Alex Hales and Reece Topley have all turned their back on red ball cricket as the trio have signed ‘white ball’ contracts with their respective counties and in doing so, almost certainly ended their Test careers.

All white now

As we all know, cricket is not what it once was. With a new, more dynamic audience craving speed, innovation and power, white ball cricket is thriving. So much so that worldwide domestic T20 competitions and their teams are now investing astronomical sums of money in players that have little hope nor little ambition of Test selection.

Tymal Mills is earning more in the IPL than England captain Joe Root

I present to you, Tymal Mills. The Sussex T20 specialist recently landed a whopping £1.4 million from Indian Premier League side, Royal Challengers Bangalore, which rather astonishingly, is just shy of double the salary of England Test skipper, Joe Root.

Not bad for a guy that has taken just three international T20 wickets in four matches.

Players such as Mills certainly cannot be begrudged or blamed for committing to the shorter format, but can the same be said about those with realistic hopes for Test match selection? Do players have a duty to support the game’s most traditional format?

Not according to former England bowler Chris Tremlett: “Some people will be disappointed that Hales and Rashid are no longer putting their hats in the ring for Test cricket, but the game is moving forward.

“Like it or not, this is the way modern-day cricket is going and it’s a personal choice for the players in question. You look at IPL contracts and that is where the money is – players are bound to follow it.”

Dagger through the heart

So, as the game continues to evolve into a calendar full of limited overs games, will higher profile players make themselves unavailable for Test selection as they eye the big bucks?

One man who could indeed do that is South Africa’s A B De Villiers. The quite brilliant Protea batsman is one of the most sought after one-day players in world. Despite being in the middle of a Test series battle against Australia, rumours persist that this could be his last outing in white clothing as he looks to cash in.

If that is the case then it would be a dagger through the heart of Test cricket and could potentially encourage other high profile players to follow suit.

Testing times

So how do the players see it?

“No one is watching it [Test cricket] and soon, it won’t be viable. There’s no money in it because it’s all in T20 leagues and we have to be worried about that,” says England Test opener, Alistair Cook.

Whilst England’s current limited overs captain, Eoin Morgan echoes those thoughts:  “Test match cricket has had a lot to worry about for a while now. If something was going to be done about it, it should have already been done already.”

Make county cricket great again

I agree with Eoin Morgan that something should have been done but the rapid rise of T20 cricket has made it difficult for the ICC and the respective governing bodies to come up with a solution. Or perhaps I’m being rather naive and in fact they see T20 as a lucrative cash cow they want to milk for all it’s worth, even if it means the Test arena is neglected.

So what are the options?

Financial Incentives

If players want the big bucks, then give it to them.

The ‘Test Championship’ has been talked about for some time now with no sign of it forthcoming. The ICC need to introduce this as soon as possible and offer big rewards, not only for the team winning it but for standout individual performances.

Show the players they can be rewarded.

Make county cricket great again

The stereotypical view of first class cricket in England is that it’s miserably cold, viewed by a solitary fan accompanied by his or her Jack Russell and played by glorified club cricketers.

Whilst that isn’t the case, it’s not a million miles from it and that should be a huge concern.

The ECB has to start engaging the youth of Britain and raise interest levels in the longer format and they need to do that by introducing a friendlier schedule.

Nobody wants to watch cricket in April with a flask of coffee in their hands and a blanket over their lap, so stop shaping the schedule to suit limited overs games and start playing first class games in school holidays, even if that means a shorter schedule.

Prioritise quality over quantity and make it fun.

Let the kids see a fiery spell of fast bowling on a quick bouncy pitch in July, not a 200 ball half century in April.

Innovate in the Test arena

The shorter formats are innovative, so why isn’t Test cricket?

Day/night Test matches have been a great hit with the crowds — let’s have more of them.

What about introducing penalty runs for slow over rates? Even as a cricketing purist I can acknowledge that the longer format can be painful to watch at times. So why not introduce an ‘over clock’? All overs must be bowled inside an allowed time or penalty runs are awarded to the batting teams.

Yes, these ideas aren’t perfect, but it’s a start.

Whatever is done can’t come quickly enough, because as it stands Test cricket and its future looks bleak.

Cricket balls photo by Farrukh via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

How did Sri Lanka fare in 2016?

It’s been a distinctly mixed year for Sri Lankan cricket. There were many highs as well as many lows – from being totally outclassed by England in all formats to breezing past the Aussies in the Test series. 

The year started in preparation for the 2016 ICC World T20, hosted by India. Sri Lanka had a mammoth task in trying to defend their crown without the likes of the retired Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Before the World T20, they had a short tour of India and made the journey to Bangladesh to compete in the 2016 Asia Cup.

South African Graham Ford returned as head coach – a position he left in 2013 – and he and the selectors picked a bunch of fresh names for the challenge.

Vice-captain Dinesh Chandimal took charge, and the side to face seasoned stars such as MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma included young fast bowlers Kasun Rajitha and Binura Fernando.

The tour started well, and Sri Lanka surprised the Indian spectators as they won the first game by five wickets. However, India went on to win the series 2-1.

The Asia Cup provided worryingly little improvement, and the only game Sri Lanka won was against the UAE.

World T20 shambles

That turned out to be a taste of the disastrous things to come at the World T20.

Sri Lanka went into the tournament without feared fast bowler Lasith Malinga – out with a knee injury – who would have played a key role in their title defence. The Lankans were also in a tough group along with England, West Indies, South Africa and Afghanistan.

“The tour of England came around and with it a chance to see some new faces prove their worth”

They defeated minnows Afghanistan in the first game but went on to lose all their others, although there was some close encounters.

They nearly handed a defeat to England but crashed to bad losses against West Indies and South Africa to make a humiliatingly early exit. The Windies went on to win the tournament, defeating England in the final.

Much soul-searching followed, with speculation about whether the veteran Tillakarante Dilshan would retire, and questions asked about the calibre of some of the players picked.

As it was, Dilshan carried on but veteran bowler Rangana Herath decided to retire from T20s, and then the tour of England came around and with it a chance to see some new faces prove their worth.

Skittled in England

Going to England, Sri Lanka were always seen as the underdogs in all of the formats – and so it proved as the tourists failed to win a single game against the hosts.

“The one-dayers were no different, with lacklustre displays throughout”

For their fans, it was miserable to see poor performances in pretty much every match. The last time Sri Lanka toured England was in 2014, when they made a winning clean sweep of the one-day, T20 and Test series.

But there were still some individuals who managed to stand out and have a pretty good tour. Kusal Mendis impressed many, scoring 53 in the first Test in a pressure situation.

Captain Angelo Mathews showed some consistency with the bat, scoring 34 in the first Test and 80 in the second.

Those were the only positives to take from the Test series, however, and the one-dayers were no different, with lacklustre displays throughout aside from a few good individual performances such as that of wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal.

Steamrolling Australia

The home Test series, beginning in July, gave Sri Lanka a chance to get back on track with victory over the mighty Australians.

Herath remains one of Sri Lanka’s best bowlers. Pic by Jumpy News, flickr creative commons

That lofty aim became a reality as Sri Lanka won the series 3-0.

Herath was the best bowler, taking 28 wickets in the three matches as well as being name player of the series, and a new hero came to light in the shape of Dhananjaya De Silva.

De Silva scored 325 runs with a best of 129. Kusal Mendis was also in scintillating form, with a top score of 176 in the first Test.

For the first time this year, Sri Lankan supporters had something to cheer and be proud about.

Whitewashing Australia in a Test series will certainly be a top memory for many fans, and one of the most memorable achievements in the country’s cricketing history.

The one-day series that followed felt like a close encounter despite the fact that Sri Lanka lost the series 4-1.

Dominance

Months after the Australia tour, Zimbabwe presented a new challenge. Chandimal and Mathews did not travel due to injury, so it was a chance for other players to gain some experience. Herath was named as captain for the Test series and guided his side to a 2-0 win.

The whole team clicked and once Mathews and Chandimal come back, there will certainly be tough competition for places in the starting XI.

The Sri Lankan side are currently still in Zimbabwe competing in a tri-series along with the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

The Lankans end 2016 with a really tough tour to South Africa, with the first Test beginning on Boxing Day.

With good form since defeating Australia, you never know, they could rise to the occasion and win a Test series against South Africa for the first time.