England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan says the growth of T20 franchise leagues around the world must not grow unchecked at the expense of Test cricket.
Morgan will lead Kolkata Knight Riders in this year’s IPL and take the reins at London Spirit in The Hundred before attempting to guide England to a white-ball double in October by adding the 2021 World Twenty20 crown to the 2019 50-over World Cup title.
But in a wide-ranging interview on The Cricket Show, which you can listen to in full by clicking on the podcast link below, the 34-year-old insisted that the game’s administrators must strive to create a global schedule that allows all three formats of the sport to grow.
“Ultimately younger players always give you a great insight into where cricket is at right now,” said Morgan, who hasn’t given hope of playing in KKR’s first match on April 13 as his recovery from the split webbing that ruled him out of England’s third ODI against India is “progressing nicely”.
“Our youngest, best talents coming through like our Sam Curran or India’s Shubman Gill who are coming in and starting out on their journey in international cricket are really prioritising Test match cricket.
“That to me means that even amongst the popularity that T20 has brought to the game, and the glitz, the glamour, the revenue streams it has brought in – cricket is in a really healthy place.
“The biggest question that we will have, is what is the relevance of the three formats and where do they stand?
“One of the biggest mistakes we make as a sport is having all three formats overlap or not recognising the roles that they play within the game.
“T20 cricket is an avenue for a young kid who has never seen the game and sees this big shiny thing on TV with stars and the ball being blasted everywhere; 50-over cricket has a different dynamic, it gives you a little bit of everything all in one day. Test match cricket is our most prestigious game for our elite players. It will always be like that and for a very few countries around the world, it is prioritised.
“Where the game has fallen behind a little bit is probably since 2008 with the start of the IPL, cricket has been a little bit of a victim of its own success – T20 has completely changed the game for the best; it has made it more popular and brought great passion and energy.
“But as a sport sometimes we fight that passion and energy because we’ve been brought up in a different generation where there were one or two formats for a very long time so when things tend to change very quickly the tendency is always to say ‘no, I prefer this’.
“My biggest worry is that the game isn’t changing and accommodating the pace at which it is growing. It is definitely an area of concern and one that needs improvement going forward because you play against countries and some aren’t able to play their best XIs because they are competing against big leagues around the world.
“Whoever is in charge needs to think about what that looks like in 10 years’ time because if they don’t manage it, franchise leagues around the world will become more dominant.”
It is an issue close to home, after the England and Wales Cricket Board agreed earlier this year that English players involved in the closing stages of this year’s IPL would be able to miss the start of the Test series against New Zealand in early June.
Later that month, England tackle Sri Lanka in three T20s and three ODIs before taking on Pakistan in the same formats in July just ahead of the start of the inaugural edition of The Hundred. It is a schedule that gets Morgan’s seal of approval.
“English cricket is in such a healthy place – we have superstars of world cricket playing for us,” he said. “As a product everything is in our favour. I think the introduction of The Hundred will pay huge dividends for the popularity and participation in the game up and down the country.
“Differentiating when and where the formats are played is going to be key. I like our international schedule this summer as it is in blocks – you have the white-ball block in one period, so there’s absolute clarity for our fans and our supporters. When you chop and change the whole time it creates a lot of confusion.”
The Hundred has already attracted a host of global superstars to its teams, including Australian Glenn Maxwell and Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Amir who will team up at London Spirit with Morgan and Australian legend Shane Warne, the team’s head coach.
“Warney has been unbelievable to work with,” said Morgan. “Meeting Shane and having the prep that we did for both drafts and speaking cricket with him has been amazing.
“His cricket brain is probably the best I’ve ever come across; his ideas about the game are always on point. They might not be traditional in the way that they are thought out but his ideas about the game are as advanced as I’ve ever heard. It’s going to be an incredible experience working with him and for every player who gets to play at the Spirit this year it’s going to be huge.”
Watch the Indian Premier League live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with the first match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday April 9 from 2.45pm.