Twenty20 could 'kill' Tests
London - Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) boss Keith Bradshaw has warned Twenty20 "could sound the death knell for Test cricket".
The Australian, in article for the April edition of the Wisden Cricketer magazine, said: "I consider myself optimistic, but it isn't difficult to look ahead and see the pessimists' apocalyptic version of the future of the game - where Tests are virtually redundant, Twenty20 saturates and players are globe-trotting mercenaries.
"We know several players have already forgone playing Tests to prolong more lucrative Twenty20 careers."
Bradshaw's views will alarm traditionalists, all the more so because he runs MCC, the owners of London's Lord's ground, the self-styled 'home of cricket' and the organisation responsible for cricket's Laws or rules.
And Bradshaw, himself a former Tasmania batsman, fears the growing emphasis on Twenty20 will leave future generations of cricketers ill-equipped for the differing demands of longer formats such as first-class and Test match cricket.
"I believe the more covert long-term problem will be that young players will be schooled purely in the Twenty20 game and be unable to adapt to the demands of cricket played over three, four and five days.
"The transition from Test to Twenty20 cricket is much easier than the other way round, and the result could be far fewer players capable of playing five-day cricket."
Bradshaw said Test cricket's enduring popularity in England could obscure the problems it was having in attracting spectators elsewhere in the world.
"We have a warped sense of the well-being of Tests in this country (England), because they attract good crowds.
"Yet there is a real danger that the format could become the preserve of four or five countries unless efforts are made to reinstate a fairer balance between bat and ball, to work alongside rather than against Twenty20 competitions to ensure players do not have to choose between playing for their country and their club, and to attract new audiences."
But Bradshaw also outlined a vision of the future where Twenty20 was the means by which cricket broadened its global appeal.
"Twenty20 could sound the death knell for Test cricket but it could also prove to be the perfect vehicle for the expansion of the game into other countries," Bradshaw hopes.
"The shorter the game, the greater the leveller - and Twenty20 is an excellent pathway into the elite fold.
"Just think of the fairytale qualification of Afghanistan for this year's World Twenty20 (which starts in the Caribbean next month).
Like many administrators before him, Bradshaw also has high hopes for cricket in America.
"I firmly believe the next big step will be the growth of cricket in the United States," he said.
"It's not unrealistic to think there could be 20 countries capable of playing competitive Twenty20 cricket within the next five years - surely something to celebrate."