Can Twenty20 and Test Match Cricket Continue to Work Together?

International Twenty20 cricket, it’s a contentious subject. This short form of the match has its pros and cons, with many cricket fans coming down firmly on one side. As it continues to gain in popularity, both domestically and internationally, there are still calls for separate institutions for Twenty20 and Test Match. This week, I’m looking at whether there is still potential for the two versions to continue using the same training staff and centres.

A popular choice

Undoubtedly, Twenty20 is the most accessible form of cricket. Rather than taking the 5 days of Test Match cricket, spectators of the sport only watch 3 hours of play. Again, this form also has a faster pace and higher run rate. This could finally help cricket shed its unwarranted reputation of a slow game. Similarly, as the shorter matches are more accessible to more fans, we could see an increase in interest surrounding the sport. Twenty20 is the version that will appeal to the largest volume of people.

Perhaps because of this, Twenty20 is fast becoming the most popular form of cricket. This could mean that we will be seeing more matches in the future, which would put more pressure on teams and players who also play Test Match.

Heading towards a natural separation

As Twenty20 continues to grow in popularity and importance, there is a worry that this is causing a divide. Increasingly, we are seeing top-level cricketers concentrate purely on this form. England spinner Adil Rashid has recently confirmed that he will only be playing the short form version of the game in 2018, switching his attention entirely to Twenty20.

The move is perhaps unsurprising, given the way the match is going. Of the 22 players in the last World Twenty20 final, only six have played Tests since. And only three – Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali – have done so since 2016.

The shift is being driven by money. The huge financial rewards available in Twenty20, especially for players from beyond the sport’s economic big three – Australia, England and India. With Twenty20 leagues now ubiquitous, there is always a tournament, somewhere, to play in without players needing to be involved in the longer formats. Leading Caribbean players can earn three times more playing in T20 leagues than in every game for the West Indies.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, England Coach Trevor Bayliss commented on this shift, stating: “In swimming you have a 1500m specialist and a 100m specialist. It’s the way cricket seems to be heading – only the best players are able to play in all three formats so if some guys want to concentrate on one form, so be it.”

A potential solution

As one of the loudest voices against International Twenty20 matches, Bayliss is adamantly against sharing coaches’ attention to both the short and long form of the match. His solution would be to separate the two forms entirely.  This would include setting up to two entirely different institutions for English cricket: one for Twenty20 and one for Test Match. With this, cricketers would clearly have to declare which form they are interested in. Cross-over between the two would be difficult.

While there is no doubt either form of this going anywhere soon, I think there may be some reason to the demands for a separation. While Root, Stokes and Ali are showing the best possible outcome of playing both versions, I believe that we will see better results with focused training on individual forms. For both sports to thrive, I think they’ll do it best separately.

Saad Raja 

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