As Test engagements shrink amid mushrooming T20 leagues across the world, former South Africa captain-turned-administrator Graeme Smith said the five-day format needs a balanced revenue-sharing model than a busy calendar to survive. Currently, India is the biggest beneficiary of the ICC’s revenue distribution model, assured of 38.5 per cent of the total earnings for the 2024-27 cycle. While the Indian board will get USD 231 million annually, West Indies would get just about USD 27.50 million, South Africa USD 26.24 million and a minnow like Afghanistan would fetch only USD 16.82 million per year.
Smith said the challenge lies in addressing this disparity.
“Everyone talks about scheduling but the real challenge for Test Cricket is financial modelling. You have heard Johny Grave (Cricket West Indies CEO), he has been openly speaking about the revenue sharing model,” Smith, who is the commissioner of the ongoing Betway SA T20 League, told PTI Bhasha in an interview.
“West Indies winning the Test in Australia is great for the game but they didn’t get any revenue for that tour. We discuss in MCC Cricket Committee meetings what should be the revenue sharing model to make nations so financially strong that they want to play Test Cricket.
“Players feel that they can make more money playing T20 rather than Tests. Those financial decisions eventually impact the format,” added the former MCC cricket committee member.
Several West Indies players prefer to be T20 freelancers and reject contractual agreement with the cricket board, citing lack of funds. As a result, the Caribbean board, along with Pakistan, has been vocal in its criticism of the model.
Despite being one of the most successful Test players from his country, Smith said the T20 format is important for the growth of the game and making sure that it remains commercially viable.
“I love Test Cricket and I want Test Cricket to be strong but it is probably a 6 or 7 nation format and T20 is for growth. It is introducing new players, new fans and new markets to the game,” he said.
“It is important for South African cricket to bring gravitas to its own product and keep cricket in this region strong,” said the league commissioner of Betway SA20 league.
“We want to follow the IPL in producing all format players. We would love to see our national team competing in World Cups and playing Test matches all around the world and having a robust T20 league as well,” he added.
Smith said he is mighty impressed with the performance of young guns like Jaiswal and Shubman Gill in Test cricket.
Jaiswal became the third youngest Indian to score a double century in the just-concluded second Test against England while Gill struck a hundred in the same match.
“Indian Cricket is so blessed that they have so much talent. When we talk about these two, their fame and their skills come into light largely through the IPL. Talent is coming through different platforms now and if you are good enough, you can still play every format,” said the veteran who has 9265 runs in 117 Tests.
He feels sad that the once formidable South Africa has failed to perform well in the five-day format in the recent past.
“It hurts. We haven’t played good Test Cricket for long. We have some quality players but no one is averaging above 40 while when we played the average of six players was about close to 50,” said Smith who led his country to record 54 Test wins.
“Virat and Rohit have been incredible for Indian Cricket. I think Indian Cricket will always have enough talent but it will be a sad day to see these guys retire,” he said.
Considered one of the greatest ever captains of all time, Smith did not give any names when asked who he thought could be the future captain of the Indian team.
“I think someone who can handle the expectations and pressure and manage the players. Captaining India is a very big job and comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure,” said the veteran who became captain at 22.
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