I have just sat here and watched the final game of the International Summer in Australia. A one-off Twenty20 match between Australia and the West Indies at the Gabba. A match that meant nothing and was played simultaneously with an Australian XI playing in India. Was that the climax of the Summer? Or was it the 5 match ODI series against the Windies played immediately before the T20 match? What were they playing for there? No I can’t remember either. The scheduling of International cricket in Australia (and in all other cricket nations) needs a major overhaul. Now. Sure next Summer the Poms will be here, the Ashes will be huge. The 5 match one-day series that follows will be well attended but like most ODI cricket will lack context.
I will get to ODI cricket but first to Test cricket. According to everyone (Cricket Australia included) it is the premium form of the game. So it should be given the premium place in the cricket calender. The Tests should start in mid December and end in early February, just before the Super Rugby and AFL Nab Cup begin. The last Test should be the end of the International Summer. Six tests should be played every Summer, all at the same venue at the same time every summer. So the first Test would always be at the Gabba in mid December. The Perth Test would always be in mid January (and on in prime time in school holidays). I would set out the Test summer like this:
Brisbane – Mid December
Melbourne – Boxing Day
Sydney – New Years Test
Perth – Mid January
Adelaide – Australia Day Test
Hobart – Early February
If two teams tour the first team would play in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. The second team would play in Perth, Adelaide and Hobart. For Ashes series it would be great to get England to play all six tests like we used to when we toured England. India normally play 4 Tests here, they would play the first 4 with the Adelaide and Hobart Tests against the other team eg. New Zealand, Sri Lanka. Test cricket would be where it belongs.
One-day cricket is still a great game. But it’s has no context at all in it’s scheduling. The World Cup means something. No other matches do. Cricket administrators have tried to make ODI’s like Test cricket with it’s 3 or 5 match series. It need’s a point of difference. I would have all one-day cricket played in a multi team tournament. Triangular, Quadrangular or whatever. All countries would play 2 series per year. One home, one away. There would be 5 tournaments a year divided the following way:
Australasia: Australia, New Zealand + 2 other teams. Play each other twice, plus a final.
Asia: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan + 2 other teams. Play each other once, plus a final.
Europe: England, Ireland + 2 other teams. Play each other twice, plus a final.
Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe + 2 other teams. Play each other twice, plus a final.
Americas: West Indies, Canada + 2 other teams. Play each other twice, plus a final.
So Australia would play the Australasian tournament every year and the other four once in a four year rotation. This would be the only ODI cricket outside the World Cup. It would mean that every ODI is played in a multi team tournament for a major trophy.
The Australasian Cup (World Series Cup, Chappell-Hadlee Cup, whatever you want to call it) would see Australia play 5 games in Australia and one in NZ every season. One Aussie game for each mainland major venue. There would be just two neutral games in the tournament, one in Australia (Hobart or Canberra) and one in NZ. These could be sold to Fox Sports along with the NZ home games not involving Australia. The final would be hosted by whichever team out of Australia or NZ finishes higher, or a rotating venue if the two neutrals qualify. The tournament would be played throughout November and would finish in time to see all Australian cricketers play a Sheffield Shield game before the first Test. This format would see that Australia would play less ODI’s but all games would be part of a major tournament that all players would be available for. I personally want to see the best available Australian team play every time an Aussie team takes the field in any format.
For Twenty20 cricket I would like to see all matches be part of qualifying or for rankings for the Twenty20 World Cup, or better still if Twenty20 was included as part of the Olympics. (If this happened I would scrap the T20 World Cup and have it all about the Olympics to make it really relevant). Two series a year, one home and one away, 3 match series against the same opponent. 6 matches a year plus a four yearly championship (World Cup or Olympic) is more than enough at International level. Keep it fresh and interesting, don’t overdo it. In Australia our Twenty20 matches should be held in late October/early November just prior to the one day series. Play some big bash games in October then finish the BBL over the Xmas, New Year period. It is a Domestic competition, not the main show. Test cricket is the main show. Let’s run it right up to when the Football codes start.
To illustrate my point, under what I have set out this is how this Summer’s home international schedule would have looked-
OCTOBER- Early Rounds BBL
3 x Twenty20 Internationals (Late October, early November)
NOVEMBER- Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa Quadrangular Series
Ryobi Cup & Sheffield Shield
DECEMBER- 14th-18th 1st Test Australia v Sri Lanka, Gabba
26th-30th 2nd Test Australia v Sri Lanka, MCG
Ryobi Cup & Sheffield Shield
BBL to resume evening of 26th
JANUARY-3rd-7th 3rd Test Australia v Sri Lanka, SCG
11th-15th 1st Test Australia v South Africa, WACA
25th-29th 2nd Test Australia v South Africa, Adelaide Oval
BBL to conclude with final on Saturday January 12th
Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield to resume 2nd half of January
FEBRUARY- 1st-5th 3rd Test Australia v South Africa at Bellerive Oval
Allan Border Medal to be held shortly after Hobart Test. Australia then fly to India for Test series.
Ryobi Cup & Sheffield Shield continue until their conclusion in mid March.
Bring it on Cricket Australia. Make Test cricket the main show. I don’t want to see a one-off Twenty20 International be the climax to an Australian International Summer ever again.