As another edition of the Big Bash League gets under way this week, it is worth assessing where Twenty20 cricket is heading and how it fits into the cricket calendar. With more and more cricket being played in all forms of the game, it is time to put the brakes on somewhere before it is too late. One area of the game which could be first to go are International Twenty20 fixtures. Are these games really something fans would miss if they were removed from the schedule in order to reduce player and spectator burn out and from having situations where series crossover with each other?
Take the end of of the 2016/17 Australian summer for example. There is a situation where the Australia, India Test match will start in India a day after the Twenty20 series between Australia and Sri Lanka in Australia concludes. This will mean two completely separate teams with separate coaches and captains will be required. If you said ten years ago that there would be a situation such as this, you would be laughed down the street. Two Aussie teams, tell em they’re dreaming!
The Australia, Sri Lanka series consists of three Twenty20 games and is not followed or proceeded by a Test or One Day International series of any kind. It really is quite a meaningless tour in a summer which already has South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan coming to our shores for different series.
You could still hold a Twenty20 World Cup every four years as players are still going to be playing that form of the game regularly, just not for their country. However as for meaningless series such as the upcoming one at the end of the summer, they do not need to be played. They seem like nothing more than a quick grab for cash by organisers and just add to the burnout factor of too much cricket being played. It is even more ridiculous this year given Twenty20 cricket would have been on our screens almost every night for six weeks in the domestic form before this International Series even starts.
Test and One Day International cricket must be prioritised on the calendar, but where possible and in certain circumstances, scheduled away from major Twenty20 tournaments to allow international players to play domestically. For example perhaps after the New Years Test in a Twenty20 World Cup year, no One Day International cricket is played in Australia to allow all Australian cricketers the possibility to play Big Bash Cricket and push for World Cup selection. This could be replicated around the world where the Indian Premier League is held away from any other cricket featuring India, but only in a World Cup year. Practice games proceeding a World Cup might be required, but again once every four years.
Granted, there is no one clear answer to the problem of an oversaturated cricket market at the moment, but one thing is certain and that is that too much cricket is being played. Somewhere down the line this problem is only going to get worse. The removal of International Twenty20 cricket at least clears a little bit of room on the schedule and removes the farcical situation of having series crossover with each other. A failure to recognise that there is a problem is ultimately going to impact on all forms of the game down the track. Test cricket is suffering and will suffer the most, with One Day Internationals not far behind. However Twenty20 cricket will not be immune, because if there is series after series of that, it too will get old fairly quickly. Change is a must.