Cricket-Players prioritising T20 leagues are hardly a Boult from the blue

Cricket-Players prioritising T20 leagues: Trent Boult’s relinquishment of his New Zealand cricket contract is another sign of a revolution in the game – a shift not from the leisurely pace of a Test match, but to the fast pace of Twenty20 innings.

A key figure in the teams that won the inaugural World Test Championship and finished runners-up in the three limited-overs World Cups, Boult will henceforth have a “significantly reduced role” with the Black Caps.

The left-arm quick asked to be released from his contract so he could spend more time with his young family but, a statement from New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said, the 33-year-old has committed himself to the “domestic leagues”. Also wanted to make it available.

A complex international calendar across the game’s three formats and the added stress of playing in biosecure bubbles during the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed players like Bolt to the breaking point.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes quit the 50-over format last month citing an “unsustainable” workload, while South Africa’s Quinton de Kock quit Test cricket last year.

However, all three have taken time out to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the trailblazer of lucrative Twenty20 “domestic leagues” now spreading across the globe.

“The decisions made by Quentin de Kock and especially Trent Boult, point to the future of shorter international careers and more players happy to be part of the gig economy,” tweeted commentator Harsha Bhogle.

“With young families, playing both international cricket and T20 leagues is not easy.”

Franchise cricket, including upcoming leagues in the UAE and South Africa, is making it an easy choice for some players.

Bhogle said it would be unfair to criticize players who prefer franchise cricket for “greed and opportunism”.

“Do remember that cricketers end their playing careers when most others enter their prime,” he added. “And we change jobs that offer more money and convenience, don’t we?”

Guns for hire

Many West Indies players have effectively turned into Twenty20 freelancers, earning more from franchise cricket than from playing international cricket.

The uncertainty surrounding the availability of his key players ahead of this year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia has frustrated West Indies chief coach Phil Simmons.

“It hurts. There’s no other way to put it,” an angry Simmons said Wednesday.

“But what can you do? I don’t think I should be begging people to play for their countries.”

NZC chief executive David White ruled out more New Zealand cricketers following Bolt’s example.

“They still talk about Test cricket – and performing for New Zealand – is incredibly important,” White told the Cricinfo website.

“The other thing is that if you are going to get a big offer from a big league, you have to be a successful international cricketer.”

The International Cricket Council (ICC) discussed the development of T20 leagues at its annual general meeting in Birmingham last month, but those looking to them for leadership may be disappointed.

The governing body has put the onus on member boards to find a balance between domestic and bilateral cricket to better manage the players’ workload.

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