Tests in danger, ODIs look extinct but the ICC's silence is deafening

There can rarely have been a more bizarre double bill. One night at Lord's it was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the world's greatest men. The next afternoon, barely the length of a cricket pitch away, it was Sir Allen Stanford, one of its richest.

One spoke about humanity, the other brought along a shedload of cash. It was an astonishing juxtaposition that embodied what cricket was and is desperately striving still to be, and what it is in grave danger of becoming.

Archbishop Tutu had flown from South Africa to deliver the annual Cowdrey Memorial Spirit of Cricket Lecture; Sir Allen, a Texan billionaire, had come from Antigua to launch an annual winner-take-all Twenty20 cricket match to be played between England and a West Indies XI for $20 million (£10m).

"Cricket reminds us," said the Archbishop, "that we are made for togetherness, that we can make this world more compassionate, more loving, more caring, more gentle. Could we have any higher aspiration, not only for cricketbut for the whole of life, as we humans experience it in a community, than that we live our lives in the spirit of cricket?" It brought the house down.

"I find Test cricket boring, but I'm not a purist," said Sir Allen the following day. The audience squirmed.

It is possible that the values outlined so movingly by Archbishop Tutu could be enshrined in Twenty20. But nobody truly believes it. The purpose of Twenty20 is to generate money, of which there is loads because it is immensely popular and populist, attracting new fans (like, indeed, Sir Allen). It has achieved a state beyond the wildest dreams of its inventors.

The England and Wales Cricket Board probably had no option but to conclude the Stanford deal. The players, already denied a share of the riches on offer in the smash-hit Indian Premier League, would never have forgiven them if they had spurned his advances.

The trouble lay in the presentation. It was meretricious in almost every respect – even, maybe especially, the $20m in cash there on which to gaze as if to prove the slogan: Twenty20 for Twenty. The show could have been an episode of the old television programme The Price is Right, with Nasser Hussain standing in for the old compère, Leslie Crowther. He might as well have shouted: "Come on down" as the great and the good assembled.

The price is right indeed. It took $20m to buy the ECB, but they could have spared us the guff about it being a union of soulmates. True, the legacy for West Indies cricket will be enormous (much greater than that of the World Cup there last year) since a significant part of the Twenty20 for Twenty, some $24.5m over five years, will be siphoned in their direction. The ECB will receive a similar amount.

The winning team will be awarded $1m a man a year, the losers nothing. It may be exciting and dramatic but the match is to all intents meaningless, a one-off exhibition. But the price is right all right: the ECB reported that their phones were ringing off the hook with fans desperate to buy tickets for the first match on 1 November. Sir Allen, for all his fulsome praise of the ECB, had already shopped around. He made overtures for matches of various guises to South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka and India.

Maybe the problem was that the price wasn't right. Sir Allen upped the ante.

Of course, it is an established school of thought that it is better to play the field a bit before finding your one true love. England and West Indies, Sir Allen and Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB, both filled with entrepreneurial vigour, might be made for each other.

In the past few months, weeks and days, things have changed for ever. Twenty20 has taken on a life of its own and now threatens to take over, like the pampered child who ends up in control.

What was not mentioned at the launch of the Twenty20 for Twenty (it is tacky even to write) was that Sir Allen is also funding an annual quadrangular series, probably to be played at Lord's, involving four countries. For this the prize pot will be $9.5m a year.

Cricket is awash with Twenty20 and its money. Test cricket and 50-over cricket are both under threat. It is difficult to see how the latter can survive or how the former can prosper. One is a guest who has stayed too long ("Gosh, are you still here?"), the other is welcome but asleep in the corner ("Leave him alone, poor thing"). All the attention is being lavished on the new kid.

Tests, vibrant in England, need immediate help almost everywhere else. Never can the International Cricket Council's voice have been so important, rarely has theirdeafening silence been sounwanted. Their annual conference begins in Dubai on 29 June. Someone has to speak out and urge action.

It may take Clarke of England, voluble in his support of Tests, to bang a few heads together in the desert. If only Desmond Tutu were there as well.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future