Twenty20 will destroy the game says Hadlee

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The Independent Online

Sir Richard Hadlee has dusted off the boots to use his long run up and deliver an impassioned plea for cricket's custodians to protect the game's rich history and values.

New Zealand's greatest allrounder holds genuine fears over the future of test cricket, which he says is threatened by the spread of Twenty20, and particularly the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Congested match schedules, the growth of Twenty20 and the filthy rich financial rewards offered to players demand tight controls being put in place by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

However, Hadlee questions whether the organisation has the wherewithal to act in the game's best overall interests.

"We are in grave danger of having the decision makers betraying the game of cricket," he said today of the ICC's handling of the issue.

"Everything evolves and things keep changing, but this is a revolution within the game of cricket.

"It's new, marketable, successful and brings in huge money. The danger is overkill, that you have too much of it, and it swamps other forms of the game and compromises them.

"If one format of the game like Twenty20 consumes the game as much as it is doing now - and potentially in the future - it is destroying THE game of cricket as a total concept."

He said there was talk of the IPL expanding from 56 games to more than 90 and its playing window increasing from six to eight weeks, which was counter productive to the international game.

"The IPL is franchise cricket, it's club cricket, it is not international cricket."

The IPL was launched to help Indian cricket, not world cricket.

"We are two years into it and you can see potentially that there will be more and more of it.

"It will consume the game. Once it has gone too far and people have grown bored with it, it will have destroyed test cricket and probably 50-over cricket."

Hadlee was signed in April as an executive consultant for the unsanctioned American Premier League, promoting a six-team Twenty20 tournament in New York in October. The proposal has not got off the ground.

Hadlee made his comments during a nationwide tour to promote his latest book - Changing Pace - which he spent the past nine years putting together.

His original manuscript ran to a whopping War and Peace-like 400,000 words but the editing process has reduced the word load to less than 100,000.

It takes in his 86th and last test for New Zealand, against England in 1990, and encompasses his time as a national selector, failed World Cup campaigns, observations on players, as well as settling a few scores with some of his critics in the media.

It is the 13th book produced by Hadlee since he burst on to the first-class scene in the early 1970s and potentially the best, because he has been able to step beyond the boundary to comment on a game which has dominated both his life and that of his extended family.

A meticulous planner in his playing days, Hadlee unsurprisingly was a habitual note taker after he retired, meaning his recall is sharp and accurate.

Now 58, he remains an unabashed cricket purist, hence his concerns about the future of the traditional game.

"I think test cricket needs to be protected, because it remains the ultimate game and I think a lot of players today would say they enjoy test cricket more than anything else," Hadlee said.

"The point is they are also faced with the other forms of the game where for less effort the rewards are 10 times greater."

He does not know whether the ICC is capable of putting self interest aside to look after the sport as a whole.

"We all know now that Asia, and more particularly India, have a more powerful say (at ICC level) because they generate that much more a higher percentage of revenue, which other countries benefit from.

"So, who protects the game? The decision makers on the ICC have to try and control it so that all the games can co-exist and live together."

Hadlee said today's international players would spend 70 per cent of their careers playing in Asian conditions.

"That is where the power has moved to. But if you have a head body like the ICC - as you do with the International Olympic Committee or Fifa - they must have the power and the rights to control and manage the game.

"That's important for the game's existence, its survival and its future. It can't be undermined by a country, or other countries.

"Once country interests are being protected it becomes a destructive element and you have anarchy.

"There is potential for real chaos."

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald