International cricket will lose its competitiveness if players continue to choose domestic T20 cricket over Test matches.
Competitiveness and aggressiveness that comes with the rivalry between teams in Test matches is an extremely important part of the way the game is played, but more and more players are choosing the T20 leagues over international cricket. This not only demeans the passion that should go with Test cricket, but the ‘friendly atmosphere’ in T20 cricket is rubbed off on the players who play international cricket.
There’s a fine line between playing in the right spirit and being friendly to the opposition. When Virat Kohli continues to say that AB de Villiers is the best player in the world in his post-match interviews, it’s courteous but it’s excessive. When Chris Morris hugs opposition players on the pitch after the game, it’s done in good spirit, but it’s unnecessary. Back in my playing days, everything was left on the pitch; it was a war out there. We’d share a beer with the opposition after the day’s play, but the next day it was back to business.
T20 cricket is a show after all, and the players play like it’s a show. They hug and compliment each other because they’re all in it together. They’re all in a foreign country earning millions, and they know that they need to keep putting on a show, so they will continue to behave this way. My concern is that this will be rubbed off on international cricket, and the rivalry – an important aspect of the history of cricket – will cease to exist between nations.
The Ashes is the one series that has kept its aggressive edge and rivalry, but I believe that’s because very few English players chase the T20 pot. These players only play each other in Ashes series, so no love is lost and they play with that sense of aggressiveness that should naturally come with rivalry.
Granted, when I played in World XI games, it wasn’t played with anywhere close to the same level of intensiveness as Test matches would. That’s because it wasn’t an international and there wasn’t as much to play for. The West Indian side struggle to field a competitive Test side these days because most of their best players are playing domestic T20 matches instead. A Test series involving West Indies is no longer a competitive one, which seriously affects the rivalry between sides.
The ICC needs to take a firmer stance on the management of international schedules and the amount of money players are paid in order to keep them in the international game. Players must play more Tests to make the format fierce again, and Tests must be scheduled in a way that allows these players to play T20 tournaments and still have enough time in their increasingly busy schedules to play Tests. There needs to be more loyalty towards playing for your country, so the financial rewards need to be matched with the likes of the IPL.