Sir Andrew Strauss has warned that English cricket must not have its “head in the sand” as it adapts to the expansion of short-format leagues.
Chairing the ECB’s Cricket Committee, Strauss is leading the High Performance Review into the future of the English game. The former Test captain stressed the need for England to be nimble as the sport undergoes major changes.
“The world of cricket around us is changing incredibly quickly,” Strauss said. “Every day, every week, every month, we see a new example of how that world is changing around us. And one thing we have to ask ourselves in this country is where does our game fit into all of this?
“At both a national and international level, what are we meant to prioritize, invest in, not invest in, etc., to ensure that the game remains strong and relevant and that we have incentives there for our players to play both red and white ball. cricket?”
Telegraph Sport recently revealed that IPL franchises are hoping to have players on 12-month contracts. Underscoring the threat to the international game, New Zealand star pace bowler Trent Boult pulled out of his international central contract last week to free up more space in his schedule to play in franchise tournaments. Two major T20 leagues, in South Africa and the UAE, will be launched next January.
Strauss said such developments increased uncertainty about the sport’s future.
“It definitely feels like right now, the rate of change is accelerating. And the truth is, none of us know what’s around the corner, so you can all look into the future and say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have this situation where players are signed up for franchises for 12 months of the year and there is less international cricket, we don’t know anything about that at this point.
“One of the things we have to be aware of in the game in this country is that we have to be nimble and adaptable. And we can’t afford to be slow and have our heads in the sand. I think it’s very important that we set ourselves up in this country, we set up the game in a way that allows us to be flexible and adaptable.”
Strauss warned that the number of short-format leagues gave players more power. He suggested that England needed to be more aware of the need to continue to make Test cricket attractive to players. Although central contracts are highly lucrative, the ECB has been considering ways to make the focus on top-flight games more attractive to players outside the full international set-up.
“The [the players] will always look at those opportunities side by side and decide what’s best for them, and you don’t hold it against them,” Strauss said.
“And so we need to continue to promote all the brilliant things that cricket in this country offers players – we want to have a strong, vibrant home game and we want to make sure that the players are also playing the right balance of formats so that not everyone is drifting down the short white-ball route. There are still many players who want to commit and challenge themselves to be the best Test cricketers they can be.”
Strauss believes that Test cricket around the world can co-exist with T20, but admitted that the format faces major challenges.
“One thing we know in other countries, Test cricket doesn’t pay the bills like it does here,” he said. “The T20 format is the way a lot of people are introduced to the game in the first place. I still maintain that they can sit comfortably together, Test cricket and T20 cricket. But the challenge we have is [to provide a] manageable schedule that allows players to do both. It’s really complicated. It’s multidimensional.”
Strauss, was speaking ahead of this year’s Red for Ruth event at Lord’s, which will raise money for the Red for Ruth charity, launched in memory of his late wife, who died of a rare form of lung cancer in 2018. The second day at Thursday will see Lord’s turn red to raise awareness of the foundation.
“Hopefully, as we’ve said every year, Red For Ruth Day and the Test match adds to the cricket spectacle as well, so it makes it all a great occasion as well as a fundraising thing for us,” Strauss said.