Test format losing appeal as players opt for T20 leagues, says Haynes

December 23, 2023  -Desmond Haynes, the chief selector for the West Indies cricket team, has expressed deep concern over the increasing trend of players opting for shorter formats of the game, particularly T20 leagues, over Test cricket.

He emphasized the need to expand the pool of players available for selection to address this issue.

Haynes, a West Indies legend, acknowledged that the emergence of global Twenty20 franchise leagues has provided players with more options in terms of the formats they wish to participate in. This has presented selectors with the challenging task of assembling strong squads for Test assignments.

Preference to explore T20 franchise opportunities

The West Indies selection panel recently announced a 15-man squad for the upcoming two-Test tour of Australia, which notably did not include two key players, all-rounder Jason Holder and top-order batsman Kyle Mayers. Both players declined selection, expressing their preference to explore T20 franchise opportunities in January.

Addressing this issue, Haynes stated during an online media conference, “Any panel would be concerned if there is a [choice] for that sort of version (T20) because we would obviously love to have a very strong Test team.”

He acknowledged that while many in the Caribbean still value Test cricket, players now have the freedom to choose their preferred format. Haynes expressed hope that when given the opportunity to represent West Indies, players would remain committed, but he recognized the challenge of retaining players for Test cricket amidst the allure of T20 leagues.

This situation is part of an ongoing trend where numerous West Indies players have shifted their focus to the lucrative Twenty20 format over the past decade, often leaving the Test side with depleted resources. The absence of both Holder and Mayers will be keenly felt during the upcoming tour.

A valuable asset with both bat and ball

Holder, a 32-year-old veteran of 64 Tests, has been a valuable asset with both bat and ball, scoring three Test centuries and taking 157 wickets with eight five-wicket hauls. Mayers, 31, gained prominence with a sensational unbeaten double century on his Test debut during the tour of Bangladesh two years ago and has maintained a strong performance record.

Haynes stressed that the immediate focus should be on developing a broader pool of players to select from, which can help mitigate the impact of players gravitating towards T20 cricket. He noted, “It is a concern, obviously. You want to know the guys who can do a job for you [are] available. But the guys have got a choice, and if they make a decision, there’s nothing we can do. What we need to do is to start looking at making sure we put things in place to produce cricketers so that when players are not available then we can still be very competitive in world cricket.”

The selectors attempted to address the absence of key players by considering the inclusion of experienced players like One-Day captain Shai Hope and veteran left-hander Darren Bravo, aiming to bolster the squad for the Australian tour. However, the challenge remains to ensure a robust talent pipeline for Test cricket in the future.

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