Cricket faces a real challenge dealing with the rapidly evolving T20 landscape, according to former Australian skipper Ian Chappell.
The last month alone has seen Ben Stokes retire from 50-over cricket due to the demands three formats of the game place on his body, suggestions Chris Lynn wants to ditch the BBL to play in the UAE, and Trent Boult being released from his New Zealand central contract to allow him to play in more domestic leagues around the world.
The boss of IPL giants Kolkota Knight Riders recently revealed that in an “ideal world” players would be contracted to their franchises for 12 months a year, potentially leading cricket down the ‘club vs country’ path that rules football. IPL franchises recently purchased all six teams in South Africa’s new T20 competition, which will also run in competition to the BBL.
Lynn seemingly wants to play the first half of the BBL before taking up a big money offer in the new UAE T20 league in January, with former national coach Darren Lehmann one of those who supports the 32-year-old being allowed to do so.
Lynn is the BBL’s all-time leading run-scorer and a fan favourite, particularly with younger demographics that the competition targets.
Cricket Australia would need to provide Lynn with a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to allow him to take up the UAE deal, to date no such application has been made.
According to Chappell, Lynn could be the first of many Australian players faced with this dilemma, given the riches on offer overseas.
“I think a lot of the older players will get offers from that area, and that will be a real challenge for nations like Australia who have a lot of good players, and also for nations that can’t afford to pay their players the best rates,” Chappell told Wide World of Sports.
“Then you’ve got the problem of the IPL franchises owning teams in different leagues around the world.
“If you’ve got a decent IPL contract and the choice is between Australia and your IPL franchise’s UAE team, well are you going to put your IPL contract at risk?”
Privatising the BBL teams has been floated, with Chappell indicating the IPL franchises would be “off their rocker” not to buy the Australian outfits if given the chance.
That then raises the question of development of younger players, a role that has traditionally fallen to the state associations.
“Who’s going to do it?” Chappell pondered.
“To me, the administrators had to make a decision years ago on how many forms of the game they wanted. Once you’ve decided that, how do you run those forms of the game so they’re not cannibalising each other.
“This is one reason why it should have been sorted out. But the administrators have no foresight.
“That’s now coming back to haunt them.”
While Lynn is yet to formally apply for a NOC to play in the UAE, all eyes will be on Cricket Australia’s response. There’s no precedent to allow an Australian player to compete in a league in direct competition to the BBL, although the fact Lynn does not currently hold a CA or Cricket Queensland contract muddies the waters.
“To me, you then go back to the World Series Cricket days, where they took the board to court over restraint of trade,” Chappell said.
“Is it a restraint of trade? In Chris Lynn’s case, if he hasn’t got a contract with Cricket Australia or Cricket Queensland, what’s to stop him?
“If I was Chris Lynn and I wanted to play in the UAE I’d take them to court. I don’t think Cricket Australia would have a hope in hell. It’s got to be a restraint of trade. You’re not contracting him, but you’re not letting him play either.”
Chappell noted that the explosion of T20 leagues is likely to damage Test cricket, pointing out that if BBL sides are privatised the owners will expect the best Australian players to be available, placing iconic matches such as the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and New Year’s Test in Sydney in danger.
“Cricket Australia has got a big decision to make, they’re going to have to do a lot of thinking” he said.
“Who’s going to be deciding who can play and when and where they play?
“If they open it up to private ownership, and there’s a clash between Test cricket and T20, well, guess who’ll miss out?”
The 75-Test veteran said the whole scenario spells trouble for the longer form of the game.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” he explained.
“For starters, if you’re being realistic you can only play Test cricket between about eight teams.
“West Indies have got a problem because they can’t afford to pay their players. Sri Lanka have a reasonable infrastructure but big political problems, and South Africa is similar.
“Whoever thought of giving Afghanistan and Ireland Test status is off their rocker. But you know why it’s been done, it’s so those countries get a vote.
“To me this whole issue has been coming for quite a while, and I have no sympathy for the administrators.”
“[Test cricket] won’t die in my lifetime,” he added.
“But who’ll be playing it? That’s the big question.
“If you haven’t got your best players, is Test cricket worth watching? The answer is probably no. Test cricket is a good game, but it’s got to be well played.”
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