MARTYN MOXON believes that Test cricket must be more financially rewarding to prevent players from prioritising T20 riches.
The Yorkshire director of cricket said that it was a problem for the game amid fears that more players could turn their backs on the five-day format.
Eoin Morgan, the England one-day captain, is an example of someone who has given up on Test cricket because his white-ball commitments are so extensive.
David Willey, the Yorkshire and England all-rounder, recently suggested that he could follow Morgan’s example, while there are increasing numbers of T20 specialists.
For Moxon, the financial bottom line cannot be ignored if Test cricket’s health is going to be preserved.
“With the money that’s available for T20 cricket, where are the priorities now?” he reflected. “We’ve got to look at how much are we going to pay players to play Test cricket, because if the payment for playing Test cricket lags so far behind T20, as it does now, particularly IPL, then you’re going to have players whose priorities are going to be more towards Twenty20 than Test cricket.
“We need to look at that, the whole way that we pay the top players. Test cricket needs to be financially lucrative for them; otherwise, after a couple of years when they’ve made their name, they’re going to migrate towards T20 where the real big bucks are unfortunately.”
Moxon’s concerns are shared by the MCC World Cricket Committee, which recently suggested that a proper wage structure and the provision of longer-term central contracts would encourage more players to put international cricket over T20 leagues.
The committee is particularly concerned that players in poorer or developing nations are not being paid enough and is calling for greater transparency of where International Cricket Council funds are being spent by some member boards.
Although such as Morgan and Willey would happily play Test cricket if possible, it is hard for fringe candidates like them to force their way in as they play so little County Championship cricket to press their case.
You’re going to have players whose priorities are going to be more towards Twenty20 than Test cricket.Martyn Moxon fears for the future of Test cricket.
The schedule is against them and even if a window of opportunity does potentially emerge, such as at the start of the English season before the international summer, there is a clash with the money-spinning IPL, which could yet restrict Willey’s appearances for Yorkshire this year.
Speaking at the Big Bash in Australia recently, where he was playing for Perth Scorchers before joining England’s one-day squad Down Under, Willey admitted he has a decision to make.
“I think over the past couple of years, the way the scheduling is now, it’s difficult to play enough four-day cricket to put your name in the frame for Test cricket,” he said.
“So I’m at a real crossroads at the minute actually of whether I decide to pursue a career in Twenty20 cricket and one-day cricket and leave my dreams of Test cricket behind.”
For Moxon, Willey’s dilemma highlights the issue.
“Dave’s a real case in point,” he said. “He’s got this dilemma of what does he focus on? He’s had very little opportunity to play red-ball cricket. Being in the England one-day squad at home and abroad has meant that his availability to play red-ball cricket for us is very limited.
“So what does Dave do? Does he focus on the game that he’s very good at and can earn a lot of money at potentially, or does he give that up and try and play red-ball cricket and maybe get picked in the Test team?
“They’re the challenges and problems that we face and he faces.
“Also, it’s important to recognise that you can’t go from just bowling four overs or 10 overs to bowling 20 overs in a day overnight. You’ve got to build up towards that with your body. We’ve seen when Dave has tried to play red-ball cricket he’s got injured, as has Liam Plunkett in recent years.
“This shift from just bowling four or 10 overs to suddenly trying to bowl in red-ball cricket, players are not conditioned for it. You need time to condition towards that and there just isn’t the time for people like Liam and Dave now, the way the fixtures are, to be available for very much red-ball cricket.”
Yorkshire are talking to all their leading players to better gauge their future plans.
“We’re having conversations with all our international players,” said Moxon. “What are you looking to do over these next couple of years? What is your plan? What are you looking to play in? They’re huge questions really for the game as a whole.”