JOHANNESBURG - Cricket South Africa (CSA) may yet revert to playing One-Day or T20 Internationals over the Boxing Day period if the International Cricket Council (ICC) refuses to grant Test status to the proposed four-day match against Zimbabwe, acting CEO, Thabang Moroe, said on Tuesday.
Moroe will head to Auckland next week for the ICC’s Chief Executive Conference, where the status of South Africa’s four-day day/night match against Zimbabwe - to be played at St George’s Park from December 26 - will be discussed. Haroon Lorgat, who parted ways with CSA last week, had placed the proposal on the agenda as part of a wider discussion about the merits of four-day Test cricket.
South African captain Faf du Plessis and the Test team’s vice-captain Dean Elgar, spoke out strongly in favour of Test cricket remaining a five-day game. Should the ICC not grant the match against Zimbabwe Test status, Moroe would have no problem withdrawing the Proteas.
“I don’t think the players should play a four-day practice game,” he said.
Instead, he would propose to CSA’s board that limited overs matches be played over that period as the organisation is contractually bound by its broadcasters to provide content.
Moroe has held meetings with SA Cricketers Association chief executive, Tony Irish and CSA’s GM Corrie van Zyl about the matter.
Lorgat’s proposal didn't find favour with Du Plessis and Elgar, with the latter saying Test cricket as a five-day game need not be tinkered with.
“If you play around the world Test cricket is followed quite well; in England and Australia,” said Elgar. “Even in South Africa, when you play against the big nations, you get very good crowds. There are other formats around that are being used to experiment with, I don’t see why Test cricket should suffer.”
The primary reason the length of Tests matches have become such a discussion point recently is the proliferation of lucrative T20 leagues around the world.
“We’ve seen a mushrooming of these T20 leagues and we are entering into that now with our own league,” said Moroe. “Players all want to play in these leagues and that puts international cricket, specifically Test cricket, in jeopardy.”
“It is valid to look at this, to ask how do we charter through these waters and of course should Tests be reduced to four days, what it would all mean, especially from the perspective of playing conditions.”
The costs involved in playing a Test match are also huge, especially when less attractive nations are the opponents. The two Tests against the Bangladeshis are being played in ‘smaller’ venues in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein.
While Elgar understood the financial implications, he explained that income generated by the limited overs formats and from when bigger teams tour, losses could be absorbed.
“It doesn’t happen every summer that we play in Potch ... it’s a once off, we play here every two, four years. Can we sacrifice that? I’m sure we can. As players we have a job, we have to play for five days, I don’t think you should tinker ... that’s when you start disrespecting the game.”
Du Plessis, who’s participated regularly in the IPL, can see why there’s an argument for playing four-day Tests.
“I understand that they’re looking at four day Tests so that there is less of a workload as far as the schedule is concerned. That will free up time in the schedule for other tournaments.”
“It’s tricky. I’m a fan of five-day Test cricket. I believe that the great Test matches have gone to the last hour of the last day - day five. That’s what’s so special about Test cricket,” said Du Plessis.
The two Tests that finished Monday supported the argument for Tests to stay as five-day affairs. In Dubai, the first Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, came to a dramatic conclusion with Sri Lanka winning by 21 runs in the final session of the last day, while South Africa needed the fifth day as well to see off Bangladesh, albeit far less dramatically.
“This proved that day five was needed - if it was rained off (on the fourth day), it would have been very disappointing,” said Du Plessis.