The announcement that the ICC would grant international status to a match to be played in England on May 31 between the Rest of the World and the West Indies, the reigning champions of the shortest form of the game (20 overs), to raise funds to restore cricket grounds in Dominica and Anguilla destroyed by recent hurricanes, will be music to the ears of most fans, because it will generate much interest (both live and on TV), and more importantly, major revenue. It will achieve these goals because the game will be the length (approximately three hours) of a typical team sporting event, ideal for TV and busy fans, and would be played in a festive environment (dancers and all) that could be accommodated without the latter having any impact on the quality of the performances. The players can be flown in a day or two before the game, and leave the day after. It is the kind of event that could be arranged with relative ease. In fact it would be easier to arrange three such matches on successive days at a lower cost and with less angst than would be required for arranging one ‘Test’ match, which is scheduled for five days, on one of which rain is likely to intervene.
As long as the cricket establishment continues to describe the shorter forms of cricket as inferior to the longest form, the fans will be influenced to think the same way, and the game will be the worse for it. It was shocking to hear Otis Gibson, the new South African head coach, express the view that losing to India in a one day series was not as bad as losing in Tests. Fans and commentators should remember the rationale for introducing the shorter formats was precisely because they are shorter, and therefore more consumer friendly in our time. The objective has been achieved. The shortening of the game has not resulted in the exclusion of the best players. What it does is place a higher premium on boldness and innovation (risk-taking, if you will) than on patience.
So please Mr Big Shots do not belittle the new product you have yourself created. The shorter formats may, in the longer run, be the saviour of the game we love in all its forms.