Brear­ley voices Ashes con­cern amid ‘looming cri­sis’ fears

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MCC world cricket com­mit­tee chair­man Mike Brear­ley has said the threat of an Ashes boy­cott by Aus­tralia play­ers is a “se­ri­ous” con­cern amid fears of a “looming cri­sis” for Test cricket as a whole. A bit­ter pay dis­pute be­tween Aus­tralia’s board and play­ers saw the two sides un­able to reach an agree­ment be­fore last week’s dead­line af­ter months of pro­tracted talks.

The row, which threat­ens fixtures in­clud­ing this year’s pres­tige home Ashes se­ries, in­ten­si­fied at the week­end when the Aus­tralian Crick­eters’ As­so­ci­a­tion said play­ers would boy­cott an Aus­tralia A tour of South Africa this month un­less a new deal was agreed by Fri­day.

Brear­ley, whose in­flu­en­tial com­mit­tee has Aus­tralia great Rod­ney Marsh, un­til re­cently the na­tional se­lec­tor, among its mem­bers, said Tues­day af­ter a meet­ing at Lord’s: “We heard from Rod­ney Marsh that it seemed both sides were very in­tran­si­gent and not get­ting close to­gether, al­though there’s some ru­mour that there might be, in which case some­body we’ll have to give way.” Brear­ley, Eng­land’s cap­tain when they won the Ashes 5-1 in Aus­tralia in 1978/79 against a de­pleted home side weak­ened by mass ‘de­fec­tions’ to Kerry Packer’s World Se­ries Cricket, added: “We think it’s a pretty se­ri­ous thing. “It could stop tours they are un­der­tak­ing and se­ries they are play­ing, in­clud­ing even the Ashes.”

Brear­ley ex­plained the com­mit­tee’s over-rid­ing worry was how to en­sure Test cricket re­mained fi­nan­cially at­trac­tive to all lead­ing play­ers in an era of lu­cra­tive Twenty20 fran­chises leagues es­pe­cially en­tic­ing to crick­eters from rel­a­tively weak do­mes­tic economies such as South Africa and the West Indies. “I think the mood of the com­mit­tee was that there was, if not a cri­sis, a looming, a po­ten­tial cri­sis and that this cri­sis needs to be no­ticed and taken se­ri­ously,” he said.

One of the high­lights of the tra­di­tional cricket cal­en­dar-the first Test be­tween Eng­land and South Africa-starts at Lord’s on Thurs­day. Yet South Africa star bats­man AB de Vil­liers is set to miss the en­tire four-match se­ries as he re­cu­per­ates from be­ing a multi-for­mat player in de­mand from T20 leagues.

Asked if this was a “wake-up call” Brear­ley, af­ter his last meet­ing as chair­man be­fore hand­ing over to Mike Gat­ting-an­other former Mid­dle­sex and Eng­land cap­tain-said: “It sym­bol­ises some of the prob­lems, the is­sue and the ten­sion.” Fel­low com­mit­tee mem­ber Bren­don McCul­lum, the former New Zealand cap­tain, added: “It’s prob­a­bly an­other red flag.” McCul­lum, 35, a self-styled global T20 “mer­ce­nary” since re­tir­ing from Test cricket last year, said: “Fi­nan­cially, there’s prob­a­bly plenty of money to go around.”

He added: “We don’t see T20 leagues as the devil by any stretch of imagination, but it’s just how you have Test cricket be the pin­na­cle of the game and op­er­ate at the same time.” Mean­while an­other com­mit­tee mem­ber Ramiz Raja, the former Pak­istan bats­man, urged the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil to make good on prom­ises to in­tro­duce a World Test Cham­pi­onship de­signed to give the long for­mat more con­text af­ter plans to bring it in 2013 and this year too came to noth­ing. Last month saw fi­nan­cial pow­er­house In­dia’s share of world cricket rev­enues in­creased from $293 to $405 mil­lion.

The deal came af­ter In­dia com­plained about a de­ci­sion in April to di­vide rev­enues more eq­ui­tably among ICC mem­bers. But Brear­ley said a more equal split, while “ide­al­is­tic”, was needed to en­sure even com­pe­ti­tion that would “help ev­ery­body in the long-run”. “They (the Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia) prob­a­bly won’t like it,” he ad­mit­ted be­fore say­ing: “We can’t re­ally see how you have long-term se­cu­rity for in­ter­na­tional cricket un­less some­thing along these lines hap­pens. It’s not directed at the BCCI in a hos­tile way.”—AFP

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