Chris Gayle has announced that he would rather play T20 cricket over Test matches. This may have come as a shock to many, but I am quite surprised that people didn’t see this coming. Expect to see more of this in the future.
I am part of the minority that loves Test cricket the way it is – spread over 5 days, each team playing 2 innings and the game sometimes changing direction from session to session when evenly matched teams play. I believe that Test cricket also separates the players from the pretenders – You have to be sufficiently skilled to survive in this genre of the game compared to the 20 over version. And you have to be sufficiently crazy to enjoy watching test cricket over five days, too.
I know I am.
Most cricket fans around the world these days would rather watch T20. The proof is in the dwindling crowds even in places like India which traditionally attracted large crowds for Test matches.
In a Test match, you pretty much know what the result between Australia and Bangladesh is going to be. T20 on the other hand, makes for a level playing field – you could even have a team like Bangladesh beat South Africa or KKR beat DDD. Okay, KKR winning a match is a bad example :) – but you do get the picture, right? And fans love that.
So, if the fans themselves would rather watch T20 cricket, why should the players feel any different? It makes perfect sense, actually – you spend less time on the field, get paid more and don’t have to be as skilled as a test player. And add other things like less chances of getting injured (due to less cricket), and you have a strong case for playing just T20 cricket.
This is also one of the main reasons that even young players decided to go against their Cricket boards and sign up for ICL in hordes, even if it meant they would be giving up their chance to play cricket for their domestic side and country.
So, if players don’t play for their state and country – how do they get into the T20 teams, you ask. We could be looking at a whole different model. Take Kamran Khan of the Rajasthan Royals, for instance. Forget the fact that he has a "suspect" bowling action, he was pretty much pulled out from obscurity and made into a star of sorts – watch out for more such things happening in the future, when IPL scouts scour the country looking for raw talent.
It is also the consumers that drive the product. With consumers hungry for more T20 games, the people who run the game will oblige. We may also end up having more domestic T20 tournaments for upcoming players to showcase what they’ve got.
Chris Gayle may eventually soften his stand by saying that he was misquoted or whatever, but the fact remains that more and more players would start thinking along similar lines. T20 cricket is going to thrive at the expense of both Test and ODI cricket. I am not actually writing the obituary for Test cricket. Not yet, anyway – but unless Test cricket reinvents itself, it is going to struggle to justify its existence. It may not happen tomorrow or next year, but it is eventually going to happen.
As much as I love watching T20 cricket, for someone who also loves Test cricket, it is a frightening prospect.