The England captain, Ben Stokes, has called on administrators to “get their head around” the game’s shifting sands and make Test cricket more attractive so that young players do not simply follow the money to the franchise circuit.
Stokes retired from ODI cricket last year citing an inability to play all three formats. Otherwise, as one of the game’s most in demand players, he would be first-choice in all three formats, whilst all being sought-after on the lucrative franchise circuit (he recently had a stint at IPL with Chennai Super Kings).
Stokes, who will lead England in the Ashes next week, believes that unless administrators act to make Test cricket more appealing, younger players will be drawn inexorably towards the financial rewards of the franchise scene.
He says that his England team playing attacking, attractive, “Bazball” cricket is part of a personal mission to make the format more aspirational for young players and fans while administrators sit on their hands.
“As a leader, I’m not much of a writer and, to be honest, I don’t speak for long periods in the dressing room,” wrote Stokes on the Players Tribune.”
“I’m more of a ‘let’s crack on, lads’, lead-by-example guy. But I am clear on what we’re trying to do here, what’s at stake, and it’s bigger than just myself and my own ambitions on the field.”
“It’s about inspiring the next generation of players. And that doesn’t just mean kids like I was, but also the up-and-coming crop of players who are already here and making the big decisions about their careers.”
“The landscape is changing. Cricket as a sport is evolving in a huge way. Faster than it ever has before. Formats like T20, The Hundred and ODIs are bringing money and opportunities for players that didn’t exist even 15 years ago.”
“When I was growing up there was no greater privilege than to represent your country in a Test match – and I still believe that, by the way — but I’m not naive. Cricketers have short careers and I know players are going to make decisions about which route they go down based on financial security for them and their families. It’s natural.”
“I really want boards across the world to get their heads around this, which they seem to be having a hard time doing. Rather than fight against it, we need to embrace it. Yes, we may lose a few talented players along the way, but the best way to keep test cricket alive and at the pinnacle of the sport is to work harder to show players something that excites them and inspires them.”
In an accompanying video, Stokes added: “rRther than fight against it [the changing landscape], embrace it and try to do something to keep Test cricket alive, while also understanding that there are other formats that will attract the younger generation.”
“Sport is always evolving and we are in a time right now where cricket is evolving in a huge way, more than it has done previously. If we play in a way we are capable of, results will look after themselves.”