Cricket needs urgent intervention – MCC committee

A composite image of Perth Scorchers celebrating their Big Bash win and Ben Stokes playing Test cricket for England
T20 franchise leagues have become increasingly prevalent in the past two decades

Cricket is at an “important crossroads” and needs “urgent intervention” amid its crowded schedule, the Marylebone Cricket Club’s world committee says.

The committee of former and current players said a better balance between international and franchise men’s cricket must be found.

An “alarming” disparity in the number of matches played by nations is neither “equitable nor sustainable”, it added.

The committee also said there were “worrying signs” in the women’s game.

Its members, including former England captain Sir Alastair Cook, ex-India skipper Sourav Ganguly, former Australia coach Justin Langer and Sri Lanka legend Kumar Sangakkara, meet twice a year to debate and provide opinion on the global game.

A number of players have spoken out against the packed schedule in men’s cricket in recent years, including England Test captain Ben Stokes who cited it as a reason for his retirement from the 50-over format.

Bowler Trent Boult asked to be released from his contract with New Zealand in order to spend more time with his family and play in T20 franchise leagues.

In January four different leagues ran simultaneously around the world, often at the same time as international cricket.

Langer, who joined the committee this year, said: “The difference between international cricket and domestic T20 cricket is that the whole nation cares when their country is involved. The best players’ statistics are measured at international level.

“We need to protect the integrity of Test cricket, and international cricket in general. It is how great careers are judged and it is where true passion and lasting memories are generated.”

Test series can be expensive to run in smaller countries where crowds are often lower.

In the latest Future Tours Programme – cricket’s international schedule – all of the planned Test series of three or more matches involved England, India or Australia.

“We need to ensure that funding is more evenly distributed across the member nations,” committee chair Mike Gatting, the former England captain said.

“It is inconceivable that the game’s heart and soul can be affluent in some countries and almost unaffordable in others.”

The committee called for the International Cricket Council to “challenge its full member nations to ensure a more equitable spread of international cricket”.

It also said money generated from World Cups should be “ring-fenced to members to support the strategic ambitions of the game”.

“Primary focus should be on becoming the global game of choice for women and girls and assisting with the costs of staging international cricket, which runs at a loss for several countries,” it said.

It also urged boards to “take lessons” from the men’s game when planning the women’s international schedule to make sure it is sustainable physically and financially for players amid the rise of T20 leagues.

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