Domestic T20s are driving cricket’s shortest format, so there’s no need to put bilateral T20 series on the international schedule.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland’s bold decision to schedule a T20 International series against Sri Lanka at the same time the Test side were in India taught us one thing: bilateral T20 series are not taken seriously.
I take the T20 format very seriously, but I don’t think there should be international T20 series anymore. Three weeks before that series between Australia and Sri Lanka, spectators crammed into the stadiums to watch the Australian Big Bash League, despite very few international players taking part. Domestic T20 cricket is played so regularly, that international teams can use these tournaments to pick their players when the World T20 approaches, and it’s supported so well, that there’s no need to fill stadiums for international T20 matches.
The Proteas opted for a second-string side to face Sri Lanka earlier in the year in between the Test and ODI series, offering very little context for these matches to be played at all. Yet the ticket prices remained the same; the public are not being sold a good product. In international sport, the best teams available should be playing.
We’ve seen players like AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum choose domestic T20 cricket over international cricket, and that’s the way the sport is moving. You can start to draw comparisons with football now. The IPL auction was a bit like transfer deadline day in the English Premier League. Supporters are more passionate about their club than they are their country. I didn’t care about Zlatan Ibrahimovic before he joined Manchester United, now he’s my favourite player! Just like Kagiso Rabada will now become a household name in Delhi after he was bought by the Daredevils in the auction.
T20 cricket is a highly skilled and heavily analysed game. I chatted to Sunrisers Hyderabad coach Tom Moody and he said the recruitment process was extensive, basing their signings, for example, on who bowls well to left-handers between overs 14-18. It reminded me of Moneyball.
This is how seriously domestic T20 cricket is being taken, and the international cricket boards must embrace it. Cricket South Africa are leaning that way with their attempts to get the Global T20 Destination League off the ground. The public judge the game by the crowds, but the men upstairs are judging it by TV ratings, and domestic T20 cricket is more popular, and more lucrative, than international T20 cricket.
T20 internationals have been meaningless so far this year with the teams gearing towards the Champions Trophy; they’ve added no value to international tours. Tests and ODIs remain the important formats in international cricket, and incorporating T20 cricket into the schedule can be achieved through the international boards embracing the domestic sector.
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