LONDON - The MCC World Cricket Committee said on Tuesday that AB de Villiers’ absence from the Test series between England and South Africa is evidence of a “looming crisis” facing the game’s longest format.
The Committee, which is an independent body made up of former internationals that can make recommendations to the ICC - although it has no ultimate decision-making ability - concluded a two-day meeting in which the future of Test cricket and the distribution of funds were top of the agenda.
Cricket South Africa’s CEO Haroon Lorgat was among those that addressed the meeting, with the Committee’s chairman, former England skipper Mike Brearley saying afterwards that the Test format may be in trouble.
“The mood was that there was, if not a crisis, a looming, potential crisis,” said Brearley.
De Villiers has opted out of this four-Test series as part of a long-term plan that involves lengthening his career until the 2019 World Cup. The cricket calendar these days is packed, not just with international cricket but also a number of lucrative domestic T20 leagues.
In the meanwhile Test cricket, with the exception of the Ashes, has no context and the long-proposed Test Championship is still no closer to being played.
“(De Villiers’s absence) symbolises some of the problems, the issues and the tension,” said Brearley.
Committee member Brendon McCullum added: “It’s probably another red flag.”
The former New Zealand wicket-keeper said Test cricket’s problems stemmed from a perception that it was a boring game and most importantly that players and domestic boards weren’t being compensated as well through the format, while they are able to earn more from T20 leagues.
“What we’ve identified is that it’s not so much guys at the end of their careers as much as it is, guys from countries that don’t get paid enough money, and that’s where the T20 leagues become really attractive.
"It’s a matter of making sure those countries are able to give guys the opportunity to be compensated appropriately, so that these T20 leagues are something they are able to exist in but their priority is still Test cricket. That’s where the danger is, and where the tipping point is right now; what’s more important, Test cricket or the Leagues around the world?”
Lorgat highlighted the financial uncertainty that exists for domestic boards because the current calendar is not set in stone.