Clarke: Test cricket most important
ECB chairman Giles Clarke has refuted claims that cricket administrators favour one-day games over Test cricket.
Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph contained a strongly worded attack on world cricket’s administrators by the newspaper’s chief political commentator Peter Oborne.
He argued administrators are packing the schedules with lucrative one-day games and neglecting the proper five-day Tests that are among the most enthralling spectacles in sport.
Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke said: “I agree entirely that Test cricket is the most important format of the game, involving the highest demonstration of skill. Yet it will only remain successful if the contests are of the highest quality.
“The greatest threat to Test cricket – by a long distance – is not its fixture list, but the growing gap in standards. Nobody wants to watch unequal matches. For there to be a broader amount of high-quality Test cricket, the grassroots of the game in all Test-playing nations – and all aspiring cricket nations – must be developed.
“As chairman of the International Cricket Council’s Pakistan Task Team, I saw first-hand the massive challenges facing my fellow administrators, even in a country which is obsessed with the sport. The only way to maintain the spellbinding drama of the five-day Test, which enthrals us all, is for the ICC to focus on helping such countries to improve their pitches, their facilities, their numbers of coaches and their infrastructure.
“As for the charge that we are staging too many one-day games, Peter is misinformed: Test matches in this country are considerably more lucrative than one-day internationals.
“In fact, the decision to stage more ODIs dates from England’s very disappointing performance in the one-day World Cup in 2007. In its wake, there was a consensus that our players needed more such games, as they had far less experience than their sub-continental competitors.
“It was also clear that an opportunity to play five ODIs in Australia before it hosted the 2015 World Cup would be great preparation. Yet international cricket is based upon reciprocity: in return, Australia would be able to play five ODIs in Britain next summer, to assist them in preparing for the ICC’s other one-day tournament, the 2013 Champions Trophy, which is being held in England.
“The demands of international cricket are certainly significant. Our home season normally consists of six Tests and 13 ODIs or seven Tests and 10 ODIs, plus four Twenty20 games. Managing these three formats is a complex business: each requires a different team, different strategies, and different preparation.
“For example, we will be defending our World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka in September, and need a settled and well-prepared squad straight after the end of our season. We also have to comply in 2012 with the International Olympic Committee’s requirement that no other international sport can be staged during the Olympics and Paralympics, complicating the schedules still further.
“Yet even if administrators do focus on earning revenue, is that such a bad thing? England are both the number one Test team and world Twenty20 champions. This is because, inter alia, the England and Wales Cricket Board has been able to make substantial investments – thanks to our sponsors and broadcasters – at all levels of the game, from our world-leading facilities at Loughborough to specialist coaches, medical care and software analysis. Players are developed from an early age, with expensive winter training to prepare them for the international arena. All of this costs money.
“The success of Test cricket is also dependent on the support of the public for our magnificent team. That team is created at county level. It is essential that all those who profess a love for Test cricket show that support, as members and spectators, to ensure counties have the financial strength to attract the best young athletes.
“Players such as Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan came from county cricket to become successful internationals, and it has been equally exciting to see, in the week of Basil D’Oliveira’s passing, the emergence of South Africa’s Vernon Philander as successor to the great Makhaya Ntini. We in England have a world-class team, but it is vital that we have world-class opponents. That is something the South Africans will certainly be during next summer’s Tests.”