Cricket: One-day appeal puts Tests top of the endangered species list: Derek Hodgson reports on the grim business of cricket for profit

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The Independent Online
SIR COLIN COWDREY, the chairman of the International Cricket Council, and Clyde Walcott, the ICC-appointed referee, are to meet the England and Pakistan players before the fourth Cornhill Test, starting at Leeds on Thursday week. This is in response to what Sir Colin described as 'petty scenes' at Old Trafford, where Aqib Javed lost half his match fee and the Pakistan manager, Intikhab Alam, was reprimanded for post-match remarks.

What the ICC officers will say to the players, other than 'cool it', is not clear but more warnings seem likely to avert what the British tabloid newspapers are already over-hyping as a 'war'.

Sir Colin mentioned all this during the 21st Benson and Hedges Cup final at Lord's yesterday, played, as always, to a capacity house, but not, this year, in the traditional good weather. It seems that no matter what the label, be it Texaco, Benson and Hedges or NatWest, demand will exceed supply for a one-day match here. To the traditionalists it still smacks of a rock band playing in Westminster Abbey.

Yet there is evidence, judging from letters in the broadsheets, of fast-increasing support for more one-day cricket, a demand that wins favour with the marketing departments, who have to make the money. In 1981, Raman Subba Row, later chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board, predicted that India and Pakistan would be forced, by public pressure, to introduce more limited- overs matches. He also suggested that it was not difficult to foresee the sub-continent one day proposing a Test match consisting of five one-day games, after the pattern of baseball's World Series. Only if one team won the first three matches could the Test be devoid of interest by the fourth day.

If Test matches became a one- day series, then naturally the four- day Championship would follow suit and first-class cricket, as it is now recognised, would go the way of the dodo. Wisden Cricketers' Almanack would have to be divided, like the Bible, into an Old and New Testament but not, as rumour had it last week, in a new pink cover.

Grace and elegance, in any form, require time and thought and market economy decrees that time is money. County and Test cricket, in their Georgian origins, may be swept away as ruthlessly as any provincial Georgian square that stands in the way of making a profit. Nor are grace and elegance, as the ICC notes, too commonly found among modern Test players but if Andre Agassi is cheered for wearing a cap when meeting royalty at Wimbledon, who is to say what is proper?

There is more to it than manners. Derek Greene, a young businessman who went bankrupt in May because his creditors in the building industry either refused to pay him on time, or to pay him at all, produced the apposite black quote when he said most businessmen today 'think ethics is a county east of London'.

Our county champions, Essex, and the other 17 first-class clubs, are well aware that they, too, have to survive in this jungle. They were relieved to hear that the Government does not intend to ban tobacco advertising, which means that there will be a 22nd Benson and Hedges final. The company is committed to the competition until 1995 and, I understand, the present contract contains a protection clause ensuring that even if the company was prevented from advertising it would continue its support for at least another year.

Vision is vital. It was said that Babe Ruth could read the number plate on an oncoming car five seconds - a long time - before anyone else. Ranji, they said, could not only spot which way the ball was spinning but could count the stitches. David Gower, it is said, can read the patent number on the bottom of an optician's chart. But are the administrators as far- seeing? The next decade may be as crucial to the future of cricket as a mass entertainment sport, in its form and conduct, as at any time since MCC first published the Laws.