ICC chair warns of future with less Test cricket

The head of the ICC, New Zealander Greg Barclay, says 'there's little we can do' as ICC events and domestic T20 leagues crowd the calendar

The chair of the International Cricket Council has painted a grim outlook for the future of Test cricket for both men and women, foreshadowing a decline in the number of men's Tests played annually, while he doesn't expect women's Tests to "be part of the landscape moving forward".

The New Zealander, who assumed the position as the independent chair of the ICC in November 2020 after eight years as a director of New Zealand Cricket, admitted "there's not a lot we can do" as domestic T20 leagues such as the Indian Premier League expand to dominate the calendar, with bilateral cricket to be "squeezed" as a consequence.

"The single biggest issue that we've got in front of us now is we're creating the cycle for the next eight years (and) just fitting everything that we've got into that calendar," Barclay said on the BBC during the ongoing Test between England and New Zealand.

With the ICC expanding events it runs to become annual fixtures – at the request of the full member nations – and the continued proliferation and expansion of domestic T20 leagues, "the bit that's getting squeezed, obviously, is bilateral cricket," Barclay said.

"And I think there'll be some unfortunate consequences from a playing experience point of view and in a revenue generation perspective for some of these countries who just won't get the amount of cricket that they will hope to have.

"And they won't get exposure against, particularly, India and to a lesser extent Australia and England."

Barclay said while he regarded "men's Test cricket as something that represents the legacy and history of the game" it was costing nations money to play the longest format.

"We're fortunate in some respects that we've got other forms of the game that can help us sustain, particularly financially, Test cricket because, with the exception maybe of one or two series, it is effectively loss making for member boards," Barclay said.

"It may well be that there's less Test cricket, and some countries will just have to make room and play less Test cricket.

"Maybe some of those countries will have totally different long-form and short-form squads, and we can see that happening already.

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"But I think also some of the smaller full members will have to accept that from a resourcing point of view that they're just not going to be able to play the amount of Test cricket that they wanted to.

"So I think we'll see a lessening of that, four or five Tests a year maybe. Whereas England, Australia, India, I think they'll be playing Test cricket like they are now.

"It's only one man's opinion but I think that that's how will it play out."

He was even less optimistic about the longest format for women outside of Australia and England, which each played Tests against India last year.

"To play Test cricket, you've got to have structures domestically that allow you to play long-form cricket and they don't really exist in any of the countries at the moment, so I can't really see women's Test cricket or long-form cricket evolving at any particular speed at all," Barclay said.

"That's not to say that those countries that choose to play Test cricket – Australia and England – who provide that to the women can't do so, but I don't see it as part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent at all.

"If you look at strategically the way that cricket is going, there's no doubt that white-ball cricket, short-form cricket, is the way of the future.

"That's the game that's sought after by fans, that's where the broadcasters are putting their resource, it's what's driving the money."

The head of the ICC's view is at odds with those expressed by Australia's players, who are far more optimistic about the growth of the women's game.

Perry heartened by other nations' hunger for Tests

"What's starting to happen, and maybe it's sort of slow going, but certainly the uptake of countries wanting to be involved in Test match cricket is growing," star Australia allrounder Ellyse Perry said last week.

"South Africa are playing England over in England this (northern) summer, which is a great step forward. Hopefully, when (the Proteas) tour here, we've got that opportunity against them as well.

"I think the more momentum the multiformat series are building for Test cricket and providing it with great context, is important.

"Pakistan aren't there yet this time around, but I think the more that we continue to discuss it, the more that we do it, and not just Australia but all the nations in the Future Tours Programme, the more likely it is that we play more Tests."

Australia batter Beth Mooney added: "The game is still growing around the world, so whilst we do want to play more long-form cricket, we understand it's not going to happen overnight.

"Teams have to be prepared and understand how to play that format of the game, and Pakistan are a great team in their own right, so perhaps in two or three years they'll be ready to play a Test match against us.

"Obviously India and England are now doing that a little bit more, but at the moment, it's important to remember there are a few more steps to be taken before we get there with everyone else."

Barclay also confirmed the 2023 World Test Championship final would be held at Lord's in July, while a decision on adding T20 cricket to the 2028 Olympic Games is due soon.

"We've done everything we can at our end so the decision, as I understand it, gets made in the next few weeks as to whether it goes through as one of the selected sports," Barclay said.