ICC’s indifference to the threat of T20 will kill Test cricket

Adil Rashid — who last played a Test match in 2016 — decided this week to concentrate solely on white-ball cricket. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 March 2018
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ICC’s indifference to the threat of T20 will kill Test cricket

LONDON: When Chris Gayle finally decided Test cricket was not for him, confirming what the rest of the cricketing world already knew, few were surprised. The swashbuckling, big-hitting Jamaican had always had a love-hate relationship with the longer form of the game. His comments in 2009 about hoping Twenty20 eventually “superseded” Test cricket were laughed off at the time. Now, they carry a sense of prophetic foreboding.
Adil Rashid and Alex Hales — who both last played a Test match in 2016 — decided this week to concentrate solely on white-ball cricket and, by doing so, ruled themselves out of Test selection for England. Given their modest records, not many fans will be losing sleep about their unavailability for the Pakistan and India series later this year. But the fact that this is two England players, still more than capable of playing red-ball cricket, should be ringing alarm bells for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and making waves at the very top of the game. Sadly, their decision reflects a growing and worrying global trend.
The issue of player free-agency — allowing players to pick and choose when and where they play white-ball competitions — has been ongoing in Pakistan, the West Indies and other less affluent cricketing nations for some time now. But, if Hales and Rashid’s decisions pave the way for an influx of young English players turning their back on domestic first-class cricket to chase large amounts of money in lucrative T20 leagues like the Indian Premier League, Australia’s Big Bash League or the upcoming ECB-sanctioned city-based competition, its impact on English Test cricket will be inevitable and damaging.
While 10 years ago these leagues were seen as retirement funds for aging legends, they are ever-increasingly being seen as a full-time career choice for young cricketers. And who can blame them? Huge contracts, shorter seasons in leagues around the world throughout the year and the adulation of thousands rather than the dozens that frequent County Championship grounds.
Yet, the International Cricket Council (ICC) seems either oblivious to the impending demise of first-class cricket as a result of this, or it simply does not care. Considering the way the organization has treated the game in the last decade, it appears to be the latter.
It has come up with a ludicrously packed schedule for international Test cricket, which has undermined its importance in the eyes of many fans. It has been responsible for the destruction of the unique spirit of the game, symbolized most starkly by stripping the umpires of the final decision. And the establishment under the ICC’s watch of franchise-based domestic T20 leagues maybe bringing in millions in revenue , but is also turning the game into little more than a slogging competition. All of this has led to a growing apathy from fans toward the longer form of the game, a few nostalgic purists aside.
In a little over 10 years, the ICC has managed to ruin the delicate balance between bat and ball, hundreds of years in the making and so unique to cricket. With the quick-thrills and instant gratification it is allowing to flourish unchecked now piquing the interest of youngsters in those few remaining bastions of red-ball cricket (India, South Africa and Australia), it has become clear that if it does not take steps to protect the traditional form of the game, we will all be hearing the death knell of red-ball cricket ringing loudly in our ears all too soon.

WHO MIGHT DITCH THE RED-BALL GAME NEXT?
KRAIGG BRATHWAITE (West Indies) — While his namesake Carlos leads the West Indies and has already set the world of T20 alight, Kraigg has yet to have his head turned by the shortest form. However, given the shambles West Indian Test cricket is in, it might not be long before he gives up the headache and starts cashing in outside the Caribbean.

TEMBA BAVUMA (South Africa) — Here is a man who has more than ably supported the Proteas’ opening line-up since his debut in 2014. But perpetually under-appreciated by the South African media and supporters, it might not be long before he gives it all up and turns his Cape Cobras stint into a full-time white-ball career.

KANE WILLIAMSON (New Zealand) — Perhaps the least likely as he is New Zealand’s Test captain. But with his lucrative tie-ups with IPL’s Sunrisers Hyderabad, Yorkshire and Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League clashing with an entire northern hemisphere summer, a few seasons of that might see him give up on his not-so-lucrative Black Caps commitments.


Felipe Massa ready for Formula E challenge around the streets of Riyadh

Updated 25 September 2018
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Felipe Massa ready for Formula E challenge around the streets of Riyadh

  • Not only will the December date mark the Kingdom’s entry into Formula E, but it will also mark Massa’s debut
  • Massa called the Formula E vehicles “the car of the next generation”

Noor Nugali Riyadh: Felipe Massa cannot wait to get behind the wheel of a Formula E car and jumpstart his new career when the spectacle of speed storms into Riyadh for the season opener on Dec. 15.
The Saudi Arabia capital was named as the newest stopping point for the sport in May, with it being the first race of a 13-race season, which sees the electric-powered cars tackle street circuits across the globe.
Not only will the December date mark the Kingdom’s entry into Formula E, but it will also mark Massa’s debut, having left the Formula One paddock for the growing sport. And the 37-year-old told Arab News he is excited about the prospect of tackling the streets of Ad Diriyah, the oldest part of the capital, in one of the electrically powered speed machines.
“I am ready for the race. It’s a fantastic feeling driving around the city, the town, it’s historical. It will be a big event,” Massa said at press conference to announce Saudi Arabian Airlines’ new long-term partnership as official airline partner of the all-electric series.
“I’m really happy to be a part of this new challenge for my career. In a new place and country, it’s motivating.”
Having won 11 Grands Prix during an illustrious career in F1, during which time he raced for Ferrari, some might think Massa would not be daunted by the move to Formula E. The Brazilian, however, is taking nothing for granted.
“It’s a big challenge for me to change categories, to Formula E,” he said, having got a chance to put some early practice in as he took a Gen2 car around the streets of the capital.
“Learning everything is a challenge. It’s different cars, different tracks and a different way of driving. I need to learn and grow to understand but I like new challenges.”
Massa called the Formula E vehicles “the car of the next generation” and it is hoped that the Ad Diriyah race helps the changing face of Saudi Arabia by inspiring more women to get behind the wheel in the Kingdom — something not lost on Massa.
“I heard that women are driving (in Saudi Arabia) now and that’s fantastic — hopefully in the future there will female racers,” he said.
“We are racing in a country (whose main export is oil), and we are racing with electric cars. I think it shows that this country wants to change its mentality and its thinking of the future. It’s really positive and I’m so happy to be a part of this.”
Thanks to the Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, the Middle East has long been associated with motorsport, and it is well known that the region is awash with petrolheads. The Riyadh Formula E race, however, will be international motorsport’s first move into Saudi Arabia.
But rather than look to bring F1 to the country his Abdul Aziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice-chair of the General Sports Authority, revealed that Formula E was the only format they wanted to see in the capital.
“This is a truly game-changing moment for Saudi Arabia and one that we can share with the world,” he said. “It is very fitting that the such a futuristic and sustainable sport as Formula E is pointing to the future direction of our country.
“Saudi Arabia is home to literally millions of passionate young fans of motorsport, many of whom simply cannot believe that Felipe Massa took the Gen2 car around the streets of the capital today and that they now have a ‘home race’ on the Formula E calendar. So already the excitement is building, especially since we’re adding live music concerts to the weekend line-up.”
The track Massa and Co. will be tackling this December was revealed at the press conference. At 1.76 miles long, the first road circuit in the Middle East features 21 corners, a number of which are long flowing ones taken at high speed. It is hoped that the race will get both Saudi Arabia’s entry to the sport and the season itself off to a spectacular start, and in doing so inspire a new generation of speed demons.
Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said: “Something we haven’t announced yet, is that there will be a support race for Formula E.
“It’s the Jaguar I-Pace trophy, it will race around the world with the Formula E circuit.
“Saudi Arabia will participate in that championship as a national team with two Saudi Arabian drivers and we will announce the names soon.”