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Players unlikely to embrace four-day Tests: FICA

Players unlikely to embrace four-day Tests: FICA

LONDON: Players are unlikely to embrace the proposed four-day Tests until administrators clarify how they plan to utilise the calendar space freed up by the move, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) said on Wednesday.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is set to discuss the idea of trimming the current five-day Tests by a day to ease a crammed international calendar and reduce player workload.

FICA, which counts players from England, Australia and South Africa as members among others, fears the new gaps in the calendar could well be filled with more cricket.

“From our discussions with players around the world, and our global survey data, it is clear that there is currently a lot of negative sentiment, within the global collective of players, towards such a significant change to the game’s most traditional format,” FICA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Four-day matches were given the green light by the ICC in 2017 when South Africa hosted Zimbabwe, and England have since played one against Ireland.

With an increasing number of Test matches ending prematurely, the administrators are keen to free up more space in the schedules for lucrative shorter-form matches.

Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar said he is firmly opposed to shortening Test matches to four days from five and warned against straying too far from the game’s roots in the quest to attract a younger audience.

“Given the obvious cricketing implications, if the ICC and/ or Boards do want to make a broader case for four-day Test cricket, we would need to clearly understand what both the economic and scheduling benefits would be, so we can discuss that with players and gauge genuine collective feedback,” FICA said.

“It is particularly important for us, and the players, to understand how any additional calendar space in the playing schedule would be used.

“Making a fundamental change simply in order to provide calendar space to fill with additional or meaningless cricket is clearly not something we can support. Cricket’s global structure desperately needs clarity, rather than further confusion.”

England have said they will support the idea after 2023, Australia are to give serious consideration to the plan, while South Africa have advocated for four-day games to be played in the future.

However, England director of cricket Ashley Giles said five-day Tests were ‘precious’ to him and the players after England’s 189-run victory over South Africa in Cape Town on Tuesday, a dramatic clash that went into the last hour of the fifth day.

“If we played four-day cricket, I fear we would miss out on a lot matches like yesterday,” Giles told the BBC. “I know a lot of Tests now don’t go to the fifth day — but you know it is precious to me, and I know it is to the players.

“There’s a decision far from made yet, but it’s a responsibility as the guardians for the game in this country to look after everything that would take the game forward, and also look after the workloads of our players.”

The powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has yet to offer an opinion, but India captain Virat Kohli said he was totally against the plan.

“Until such a time as we and the players are provided with the full picture and compelling reasons for change, we remain supportive of five-day Test cricket, and would expect significant player resistance if a shift to that is imposed on players by the ICC and/or Boards,” FICA said.

FICA’s reaction came a day after England captain Joe Root and his South African counterpart Faf du Plessis have both backed five-day Tests.

England beat South Africa by 189 runs in the second Test at Newlands on Tuesday to level the four-match series at 1-1 after the hosts lasted almost 138 overs in their second innings, but could not see out eight more that would have earned them a draw.

The match went into the last hour of the fifth day, providing drama aplenty in Cape Town after both sides had toiled hard in search of their desired results.

“I like five-day Test cricket. I’ll leave at that, otherwise Ill get in trouble,” Root told reporters in the wake of the thrilling Newlands win.

Du Plessis was more forthcoming on a day in which Cricket South Africa (CSA) sent out a statement in which they officially backed the plan four-day Tests.

“I suppose you’ve got to ask CSA what their opinion is I am a fan of Test cricket going five days,” he said. “The great draws of the game always go to five days. I’m not speaking about the other stuff that comes to four-day cricket. I understand there is a lot of money being burned on five-day cricket because a lot of games are not going to the fifth day.

“There will always be an opinion on both sides, but I am still a purist of the game and have been part of some great draws that went five days.

“There would definitely not have been a result in four days on the wicket we have just played on now.”

He said the finish on Tuesday was an example. “There would definitely not have been a result in four days on this surface.”

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2020

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