There will be more international retirements
I had great sympathy with Ben Stokes because I know how it feels to have that mental fatigue which means you can’t handle so much cricket anymore.
For Stokes, it’s the mental fatigue of being such an important player in all formats for so long. He needed a break and, with the calendar the way it is, you have to retire to get one.
He wants to be able to park cricket and spend time with his family every so often.
Test match cricket is still the pinnacle, particularly for him, so I understand why he’s retired from ODIs.
With the schedule the way it is, we are going to see more and more of these stories. Quinton De Kock, a star of the game, has already retired from Test cricket, remember.
India flew straight to West Indies after touring England and are off to Zimbabwe next. Lots of their guys looked like they needed a break months ago. Some are rested from the Zimbabwe tour, but it’s still a lot of cricket.
The reality is that players want to save themselves for the biggest occasions and for the most lucrative opportunities. Bilateral series are increasingly not that.
We must accept that cricket is changing
I once said the schedule was horrendous and I couldn’t cope, so I retired from ODI cricket & the ECB banned me from T20s too………….🤣
— Kevin Pietersen🦏 (@KP24) July 19, 2022
The crazy cricket schedule has been a huge topic this summer. It’s been an issue that we’ve been creeping towards for a while but Stokes’ retirement from ODIs brought it out into the open.
The headline that caught my eye this week was that the Knight Rider group, who own teams in the IPL, CPL and UAE T20, want to sign up players to 12-month contracts.
That would be a game-changer. You could see players break away from international cricket completely in order to earn much more money to play in two or three events during the year.
The top players are being worked into the ground at the moment. If an opportunity comes along that offers them long-term security they’ll take it. It’s human nature.
Unfortunately that means that the traditional cricketing structure, with Test matches as the pinnacle, is under threat.
I’ve said previously that I think by 2025, only the major nations will ever play Test cricket. I know they hate me saying it, but any Test series involving New Zealand or West Indies or any other nation outside the very biggest could fall by the wayside.
I can see a scenario where by 2025 the only Test cricket is the Ashes, England v India, Australia v India, India v Pakistan and other landmark series, unless they start paying Test match cricketers crazy money. I’ve written about how the ECB can save the England team before, but not every nation will be able to afford it.
Bilateral white-ball series are in trouble, too. It feels like nobody has really noticed England’s games against India and South Africa this summer, and the Proteas have pulled out of a tour to Australia next year to prioritise their new T20 competition.
It makes me very sad because internationals, particularly Tests, are still the purest form of the game. But we have to accept that as time goes on, the power of franchise cricket is going to turn more and more heads.
The Hundred is quick, engaging cricket
It’s not just the players and administrators involved who will increasingly drift away from the international game.
I think we underplay how differently the younger generation are consuming content. These days, they’re not even interested by Whatsapp!
My son’s favourite competition is The Hundred. He loves it. He’s a Southern Brave fan, his favourite player is Chris Jordan and he wants to go and watch them whenever possible.
Young people are much more interested when the game moves quickly, it’s a fun atmosphere and they see a result in no time.
One of the best features of The Hundred last year was the clock, forcing teams to get on with it. I think it’s been a drawback of T20 in the last few years that captains are taking so long over every decision. The game has to speed up and part of the challenge should be to think quickly.
It should be a quality competition this year, with more overseas players involved. It’s a product that thousands of young people engage with more than anything else the game has to offer. The ECB, remember, have cleared the England schedule for the first two weeks so that all of the big guns can be involved. It’s the way the game is heading.
I received my Sky schedule this week and it’s busy, busy, busy – but I can’t wait. I think it’ll be a month of cricket that truly establishes this competition and these teams.
For my boy’s sake, let’s hope the Southern Brave do the business!
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