The T20 revolution is pushing me away from the game I grew up loving

I am a self-confessed cricket nut.

My childhood almost constantly revolved around it. From playing juniors on a Saturday morning, watching the seniors on a Saturday afternoon, playing district cricket every second Sunday, comparing MyCricket stats with the boys at school on a Monday morning, training twice a week and backyard cricket whenever else I could manage it.

The TV was always on, Channel Nine and, more recently, Fox Cricket a constant source of contention between my Mum and I.

I lived a completely cricket obsessed life, and still do. For the last five years ever since graduating from high school, I have worked as a cricket coach.

As a junior coach, I have worked my way through the ranks from under 13s through to 17s and have had the privilege to work with a number of young, extremely talented cricketers, who have gone on to represent the state at underage levels, and I would love nothing more to see them on the big stage in the future.

It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

But I have decided to stop.

And it mainly comes down to the fact that the game that I obsessed over as a kid just is not the same anymore.

The T20 revolution is well and truly here, and as much as old-school tragics such as myself wish, it is not going away.

We now live in a reality where the South African Cricket team will now prioritise a domestic T20 cup competition over a one-day international series against Australia.

A reality where international sides, including Australia, pick second-string sides for international tours, while big-name players chase a quick buck in meaningless franchise competitions.

A reality where the English Test captain would step down from ODIs in favour of pursuing franchise opportunities.

A reality where the ICC will black out two entire months of the Future Tours program in favour of the IPL.

Brisbane Heat in the BBL

(Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

And we sadly now live in a reality where at junior levels, coaches are now being directed by state cricketing associations to focus on the shorter format, and more inventive batting. Gone is the instruction to ‘get yourself in and play every ball on its merits’.

The instructions from higher up now reflect the high octane, thrill-a-minute cricket of the Big Bash generation.
Strike rates are now seen as more important than averages.

I personally know young batsmen who have piled on bucket loads of runs at junior levels left out of representative teams in favour of others who score quicker, but far less frequently.

The same goes with bowlers – anyone who has pace is quickly snapped up, regardless of statistics, but what about the kid who swings it both ways and has 25 wickets at an average of 12?

Nope, he is just another victim of the T20 revolution.

Now, I am not deluded enough to say that there isn’t a place for T20 cricket. It has its place, as a gimmicky, fun format, but it has now become the dominant form of cricket across the world.

And sadly, it is now also the dominant form of the game at grassroots level. In the under-17s Junior Premier Cricket competition I coached in last year, we had a 16-round season plus finals. Ten of the 16 games ended up being T20s.

In the interest of player development, how can this possibly be a good thing for producing Test cricketers in the future?

We have seen a power struggle like this before in the past. World Series Cricket in many ways did push cricket forward, but that was mostly around players being paid what they were owed, and more competitive broadcast rights. It was not a complete change to the fabric of the game, like the T20 revolution has become.

This summer we will see more T20 cricket than ever before. The World Cup comes to our shores, barely a year after the last one, which while mostly a result of the pandemic, still seems bizarre.

We then have the marathon that is the Big Bash League, dragging on for a month too long, as soulless city franchises play each other in front of half-empty stadiums for a trophy that no one really cares about.

We thankfully do get five Test matches to savour, but do not bank on any reserve players playing Sheffield Shield during this time to keep themselves sharp and push for a call up, because it won’t be played during this time!

Sadly, as much as I bemoan all of this, it isn’t going to change.

The almighty dollar rules all, and to cater for the much larger markets in India and possibly America in the future, true cricket tragics are the ones who pay the price.

I cannot really blame the players – who wouldn’t jump at earning over a million dollars in six weeks?

Worse is to come, though. Look at golf. LIV Golf, backed by the Saudis, is offering eye-watering figures for the best golfers. Cam Smith may jump across almost immediately after winning the Open.

It is reasonable to suggest, considering the most recent T20 World Cup was held in Dubai, that oil-rich nations may also look to do the same with cricket, and then we will have a true existential crisis in our game.

From the grassroots to the international sphere, the T20 revolution has swept all before it, and for those of us who loved everything about the game as it was, it is really hard to really get excited about what lies ahead.

I for one find I am losing a lot of interest in the game, as I ponder the question: is international Test cricket really still the pinnacle of our game?

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