Cut the number of Test teams? Axe the 50-over game? How to solve cricket's unabating schedule
Former India player and coach Ravi Shastri feels the number of teams playing Test cricket may need to be reduced; Mark Butcher thinks 50-over cricket could slip from the calendar in England; Michael Atherton expects fewer bilateral series - and wants cricketers and fans taken into account
Last Updated: 23/07/22 12:55pm
"I think the huge line in the sand is Ben retiring at the tender age of 31."
Those the words of former England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan after the side's current Test skipper Ben Stokes called time on his ODI career.
The congested cricketing calendar has come into laser-sharp focus since Stokes' announcement with the man himself saying the "unsustainable" schedule was a major factor in his decision to depart the 50-over game.
- Jonny Bairstow: I still want to play all three formats
- We're not cars' - Ben Stokes hits out at 'jam-packed' schedule
- Live cricket on Sky Sports | Sky Sports Cricket on YouTube
So, what can be done about the number of matches players now face, with the international programme swelling and franchise competitions popping up all over the globe?
My frustration has been the administrators’ lack of farsightedness. It seemed obvious to me when the IPL came along that it was going to be a challenge for international cricket. No one seemed to have the wherewithal to think about knitting it all together. That has never really happened. The administrators have tried to squeeze as much money from broadcast deals, put as much cricket on the calendar as possible. They have never really planned it.
Sky Sports' Michael Atherton
Ravi Shastri - 'Cut the number of Test teams'
"We have to look at reality. If you don't see reality it is going to give you the biggest knockout punch you've ever got. You have to look at the demand and go with the economics of the sport.
"Franchise cricket is ruling the roost and will rule the roost, so how are you going to still have international cricket going? You have to cut the volume of bilateral cricket if you want all three formats to survive.
"I feel the emphasis will be on Test and T20 cricket - 50-over cricket might be pushed back but it can still survive if you focus just on the World Cup.
"Paramount importance should be given to the World Cups in 50-over and T20. The bucks have to increase for players to still want to be part of those.
"Test cricket will always remain. In India, franchise cricket brings in the coffers but all players want to play Test cricket because you play it for 10 years and you are remembered.
"But if you want Test cricket to survive you cannot have 10, 12 teams playing. Keep the top six, keep the quality of cricket going and respect quality over quantity.
"Expand teams in T20 or one-day cricket if you want to spread the game, but reduce the teams in Test cricket so you have to qualify for the top six if you want to be playing Tests matches.
"Test cricket tests you, you need quality. So if there is no quality then who is going to watch it?
''You are going to have two or three-day games. It is also expensive to host Test cricket so spread the game with white-ball cricket."
Mark Butcher - '50-over cricket could go in England'
"I think the future of 50-over cricket in this country looks pretty bleak for lots of reasons.
"The obvious one is that the Royal London Cup is now a second-rate competition with all of the better players either playing for England or in The Hundred.
"The ones that are playing 50-over cricket are looking over the fence and thinking, 'I'd rather be doing something else. It's great for my development, I guess, but given the choice, I would rather be playing in a competition with more eyes on it'.
"You are kind of signing the death warrant of the 50-over format by virtue of the way it is being played. We have four formats in England so something has to give and if that ends up being 50-over cricket that might be okay.
"It would be sad as it is a terrific, high-skilled format but if it came down to it then I would rather Test and T20 cricket stayed.
ODI cricket has been forced a little bit out of the game at the moment. I don't see Test cricket going anywhere, I don't see T20 going anywhere. I think we are getting closer and closer to players choosing formats earlier in their career. There are more options around the world to earn good money. T20 is not a quick buck anymore, there is long-term money.
Eoin Morgan, speaking to Sky Sports
"How does 50-over cricket survive in this country. It's basically being written off before our very eyes while we pretend we're still interested in it.
"We are world champions so talk about cutting off your nose while your face is still smiling away. It is quite extraordinary to witness what is happening at the minute.
"So, 50-over cricket might go in England but it might be different elsewhere. Nobody's circumstances are the same Some countries would be happy to see the end of Test cricket. although they won't say it out loud.
"Too often it seems the ones that have the riches and the power have looked after what is good for them thinking that that is good for the game in general but the game, in general, has been scrapping around."
Michael Atherton - 'Bilateral series will be reduced'
"I think the game is at a tipping point which has long been coming probably since the advent of the IPL.
"You could argue the tipping point has come now with South Africa taking the decision to abandon three ODIs in Australia as they want their best players available for a franchise tournament they are setting up.
"They are prepared to slightly imperil their participation in the next World Cup to do that. That tells you all you need to know about the balance of power between international and franchise cricket.
"There is going to be an ICC event virtually every year and there are going to be windows for franchise T20 tournaments so something will have to give. What will have to give is bilateral international cricket.
"However, England, India and Australia have to be enlightened in helping other countries to be as strong as they can for the good of the game. If there are only two or three strong teams people will switch off. The beauty of the international game is the competition between the teams.
"If you think back to Covid 2020, all the rhetoric when West Indies came to England was 'thanks for coming, we owe you, we will pay you back,' but it doesn't look like England will play another Test series in the Caribbean for another five years.
Test cricket is extremely expensive to host and a lot of Test nations are solely reliant on England, Australia and India touring, which doesn't happen enough,. The ICC need to chuck more money at it and force tours to happen so it stops being a boutique format of the game.
Eoin Morgan, speaking to Sky Sports
"I actually think the biggest issue in the English and world game is getting a simple structure for the fans. Things change from year to year and you are taking people's enthusiasm and preparedness to pay for it for granted
"You can't do that. You need a schedule that can hold for the next few years, whatever that might be. Something simple in blocks.
"If I could make just one plea, it would be to rebalance the thinking from 'how do we make the most money?' to 'what is the best thing for cricket and the cricketers?'
"We have covered first-class cricket in England in October freezing our backsides off. If you are doing that, you know something has gone wrong somewhere down the line."