Items on the ICC cricket committee agenda

By Philip Oliver

The ICC’s cricket committee is currently convening at Lord’s and they have plenty to discuss. The seemingly unstoppable development of Twenty20 cricket is surely top of the agenda and the group needs to close talks with a plan to protect the other forms of the game.

Maintaining the traditional values of Test cricket whilst at the same time making it ‘relevant’ is a tricky balancing act. The committee has been discussing the possibility of day-night Test matches and the recently-tested referral system. It is important they get these things right, as the credibility of the purest form of the game needs to be protected.

The demand for day-night Test cricket is easy to recognise. The more social playing hours of Twenty20 cricket that makes the attendance of families easier (and a popular choice with regards to Twenty20 betting), has undoubtedly been a factor in its success and it is tempting to embrace any measure that improves the size of Test crowds.

Test grounds rarely sell out anywhere in the world on weekdays and the lack of home crowds on any day was an unwelcome feature of both of England’s winter tours to India and West Indies.

However, the credibility of Test cricket depends on a fair contest between bat and ball and although changing conditions are part of the ebb and flow of a five-day contest, a major shift in conditions when the sun goes down would be damaging. Some trials need to be implemented before day-night Tests become a reality.

The referral system has been a huge point in the series it has been used in, which hints at its failure – the system should reduce controversy, not increase it.

The system cannot continue in its current state, as too many wrong decisions were made. It was brought in to eradicate obvious mistakes, but instead became a confusing process that resulted in borderline on-field adjudications, a part of the game that has always been accepted, being erroneously overturned.

This confusion was largely due to the muddled wording and implementation of the ICC protocol – the third umpire needed clear evidence to overturn the original decision but instead often used his ‘element of doubt’ measure that favours batsmen. This needs to be cleared up.

Test cricket is distinct enough from Twenty20 cricket to survive and should not mimic its younger sibling. One-day international cricket is less secure and needs to learn some lessons. It will be interesting to see what the ICC comes up with.

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