OK, I’m being a little unfair. But in today’s entry for his Guardian blog, David Mitchell aka “Peep Show”‘s Mark Corrigan shows his TV portrayal of the world’s youngest old fart is not, in fact, a tremendous stretch. Concerned with the advent of the IPL and Allen Stafford’s upcoming winner-take-all Twenty20 series between England and a West Indies All-Star squad (“it could make cricket a truly global sport but it could also mean bikini-clad cheerleaders and a squeaky ball”), Mitchell warns, “there is simply less of that investment involved in Twenty20 than in Test cricket so it can’t be as exciting – end of story. It may be a percentage choice for something relatively entertaining but it’ll never hit the heights of the climax of an Ashes series.”
Firstly, there is nothing about the phrase “Texan billionaire” that lends confidence – it’s too reminiscent of the plot of Billion Dollar Brain. It makes you think that the guy’s likely to be a moron or a maniac, either way someone who’s made a lot of money and then spent hours and hours sitting in the sun, drinking whiskey and having ideas. This is rightly to be feared. Particularly as he’s been quoted as saying that Test cricket is “boring” which, to my mind, is so massively to miss the point of cricket that I can’t understand why he’d still want to buy it.
Twenty20 is undoubtedly very entertaining (and if it spelled the end of 50-over one-day cricket, I wouldn’t really care) but it isn’t the highest form of the game and it would be a great pity if money made it so. Test cricket is just better: the batsmen have to make fewer mistakes, the bowlers are allowed their proper role as match-winners or losers, rather than run-savers, and, because a match lasts five days, it’s more exciting.
It is monumentally unfair that players are expected to show restraint, and prioritise Test cricket, when future financial security is being offered them on a plate. Missing the Antigua game due to injury or making themselves unavailable for the IPL because of the start of the English season have huge long-term financial consequences for these men and, if they follow the money, I for one wouldn’t blame them. Test cricket organisers need to be big enough to defend themselves, rather than relying on men in their 20s, with few prospects of employment beyond 35, to do the job for them.