What does the ICC want cricket to look like? It can’t be what South Africa sent to New Zealand…

South Africa’s challenge of New Zealand in the second test in Hamilton ended up petering out, as one would expect. The team of misfits – more or less the best South African crickets not good enough to play in the SA20 – did remarkably well under the circumstances. We love an underdog and a South African victory would have been extraordinary, but the circumstances were so unnatural that it’s hard not to be left with a bitter taste in the mouth.

But what’s done is done. This series isn’t coming back and neither is South Africa’s status as having never lost a Test series to New Zealand. So, what can be done about what just happened?

The ICC needs to take a little more responsibility. Yes, the Future Tours Program (FTP) was released before many of the details of the SA20 had been confirmed. But surely better collaboration years before either schedule was released between the ICC and Cricket South Africa could have avoided a clash with the New Zealand tour.

The outcome of South Africa sending a weakened squad to New Zealand was predictable. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

A clear window for when each domestic T20 competition takes place, and therefore a clear window in which each national team is ineligible to play, should be established as soon as practicable. That this was not established already gives the sense the ICC were not particularly concerned about this series. Neither country’s respective cricket boards stand to make any money out of this series, nor does the ICC, so perhaps no one cared about it anyway.

In that case, what do the powers that be actually want international cricket to look like?

Because here’s the reality. In a cricket world so dominated by where the money is at any given time, it’s not actually clear what the benefit is to a bilateral series not involving the ‘Big Three’. There is certainly no money to be had in those series. And I don’t want to be misconstrued: I absolutely love Test cricket. I’ll happily sit down and watch a whole day of Zimbabwe v West Indies. The problem is, I’m not anything like a representative of the cricket watching public.

Isn’t that the exact problem Test cricket faces at the moment?

The majority of people who care enough about cricket to talk about it and consider solutions to problems, actually are fans of Test cricket. This creates an echo chamber. How often do you talk to a cricket fan who wouldn’t be sad if Test cricket died, because they prefer T20 anyway? Given the sheer number of people who attend T20 cricket, it’s hard to imagine there aren’t hundreds of thousands of those kinds of people around the globe. We don’t hear from them, because they don’t have a problem. They show up, they turn on their TVs, they watch the game, they move on. Life is good for the T20 fan.

Proteas gun quick Kagiso Rabada missed the New Zealand Test series to play in the SA20. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

With almost all Test nations unable to make the traditional form of the game profitable, but most of them making big money out of domestic T20 leagues, they have every motivation to place their league in the exact most lucrative part of the calendar – wherever is the most convenient.

Cricket South Africa scheduled their league during the tour of New Zealand, not, in my opinion, to spite Test cricket, but because that series was utterly irrelevant to them. They stood to gain nothing, so they put nothing into it.

When teams are sending squads away for Test series that aren’t so much weakened as they are the guys who happened to be available, there actually isn’t any point to the format. It’s an insult to all of us.

If South Africa wants to play their T20 league in February, that’s fine. But there must be a workable and reasonable system where each country has a window for home T20 cricket, and outside of that, their best players must be available. Let’s not forget, this wasn’t Haris Rauf or Jason Holder choosing not to play Tests, this was Cricket South Africa effectively barring their own players from representing their country. Test cricket dies in those circumstances.

If something isn’t done about it, fast, then we run the risk Test cricket becoming irrelevant in most Test playing nations. The New Zealand v South Africa situation should not happen again. The ICC must not allow it.

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