Chris Waters: Getting the balance right vital to any chance of saving the game we love

Taking over: Nottinghamshire celebrate winning the NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston.
Taking over: Nottinghamshire celebrate winning the NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day at Edgbaston.
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“I WOULDN’T play T20 internationals,” said England coach Trevor Bayliss the other day.

I agree with him completely, although I would not have felt it necessary to add the word “internationals”.

Joking aside, Bayliss made a good point when he said of the 20-over format: “I’d just let the franchises play. If we continue putting on so many games, there’ll be a certain amount of blowout, not just of players, but of coaches as well.”

He added: “If you want to play a World Cup every four years, or whatever it is, maybe six months beforehand you get the international teams (together) and let them play some T20 internationals.”

Bayliss was speaking after the latest round of international T20 games – the Trans-Tasman T20 Tri-Series, also involving Australia and New Zealand.

I do not know about you, but this nonsense of a series – packed into an already impossibly packed schedule – passed me by with hardly an iota of interest; indeed, I could not even tell you who won the blessed thing, although I know that England did not.

As such, Bayliss’s words might be interpreted from the standpoint of sour grapes, but it is not the first time that the Australian has ventured this view.

“Aw, look mate, my opinion hasn’t changed,” he said when prefacing his latest comments.

England may not always play a good game under Bayliss (particularly at Test level), but at least he is capable of talking a good one when the mood takes him.

Like Bayliss, I believe that T20 internationals are mainly a waste of time.

Rob Andrew. AP/NZPAWayne Drought

Rob Andrew. AP/NZPAWayne Drought

I have nothing against the format per se, but I think that it works much better in the context of franchise cricket/domestic teams, with their often unique identities/set playing windows.

So packed is the cricketing schedule, indeed, that England rarely have their best players available for T20 internationals in any case, due to the fact that, at some stage, the poor blighters must rest.

Although T20 is threatening world domination like some mad sporting equivalent of Fu Manchu, there is at least tacit acceptance among cricket’s top brass that those players are – for now at least – better off missing T20 internationals than 50-over internationals or five-day Tests.

Of course, the idea that T20 internationals could ever be scrapped is to carry wish-thinking to the nth degree.

I would hazard a guess that most cricket lovers would agree that it is all a question of balance, and that the balance has gone irreparably awry.

Chris Waters

England’s schedule this winter has been crazy but hardly atypical – five Ashes Tests and five one-day internationals against Australia, followed by the tinpot Trans-Tasman whatever-it-is, and now another five-match one-day international series in New Zealand followed by two Tests against the Kiwis.

Truly, the greed of administrators knows no bounds, along with their myopic running of the sport.

Why, it was blindingly obvious that T20 was always going to spiral out of control unless action was taken to keep things in check, with red-ball cricket steadily allowed to wither – as evidenced by the shameful shortening and shoehorning of our County Championship.

Sometimes, a little “outside” opinion never goes amiss, which is why the words of Sussex chief executive Rob Andrew should resonate every bit as loudly as those of Bayliss.

Andrew, who joined Sussex just over a year ago following his departure from the Rugby Football Union, is clear on the way that cricket is heading. “Within 15-20 years, cricket could be a one-format game,” he warned recently. “It’s drifting in that direction.

“If people think it’s not drifting in that direction, then they’ve got their eyes closed.

England coach Trevor Bayliss. Picture: Jason O'Brien/PA

England coach Trevor Bayliss. Picture: Jason O'Brien/PA

“It’s blatantly obvious.”

In other words, in 15-20 years’ time, we will be playing only T20.

Tests and one-day internationals will have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and the poor old Championship will be laid to rest in sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life.

Although opinions differ as to the speed of T20’s Fu Manchu-style takeover, the likelihood is that “the world shall never hear from Test cricket again”, as Christopher Lee so nearly put it, sooner rather than later.

The sport – already unrecognisable from when T20 appeared at the start of the millennium – will essentially have become a different sport.

Can anything be done to delay the inevitable?

More from Rob Andrew ...

“What the game should be doing is saying we need all 18 of you (first-class counties) to produce red and white-ball cricketers – that’s if we want to keep red-ball alive,” he stated.

“If we don’t, well, just say forget it – in five years’ time we’re going to play like baseball, three matches a week of T20.

“Why don’t we triple the number of T20 matches? I’m playing devil’s advocate, but we’ve got to have the debate because from what I’ve seen in the 12 months I’ve been here we are killing it (Championship cricket) by stealth anyway.”

Powerful words from a county CEO, and poignant ones, too.

In years to come, we will surely look back on them as unheeded warnings, opportunities missed/wilfully squandered.

The sense that traditional cricket is dead on its feet grows stronger by the day.

Money talks, and if Adil Rashid’s recent decision to put the pursuit of T20 franchise riches over playing Championship cricket for Yorkshire does not set alarm bells ringing, the game has gone deaf.

My personal belief, expressed in these pages before, is that the die has been cast and that the game – or at least the traditional game that so many of us hold dear – is fundamentally damaged beyond repair.

Indeed, it is already an exercise in damage limitation – we still have a Championship for the time being, but an unsatisfactory one, with fewer games and the top players no longer or rarely available.

Like Harold Lloyd dangling off the clock face, the four-day competition is just about clinging on, but its grip is becoming increasingly tenuous.

In the months and years to come, more will follow Rashid’s example and no longer want to take part in it; instead they will go wherever the franchise money leads them – revered no longer by traditional cricket lovers, but by those for whom T20 is the only thing that counts.

Of course, the bottom line is that if enough people want T20 – and they must, or else there would not be so much of it – then its dominance will continue.

It is clearly not my place or anybody else’s to tell someone what they can or cannot enjoy, or that they do not have the right to want T20 over other formats.

But I would hazard a guess that most cricket lovers would agree that it is all a question of balance, and that the balance has gone irreparably awry.

I can enjoy a game of T20 with the best of them, but, if cricket does indeed become a one-format sport, as Andrew suggests, then it is a game that will interest me only in passing, if at all.