David Warner is the perfect example of a player that has come from T20 and improved Test cricket.
Photo: Getty Images
The big question
"I have absolutely nothing good to say about Twenty20 cricket," says Michael Holding, with perfect truth. The huge money being offered by domestic T20 leagues, according to that former fast bowler, will in the long run "destroy" Test cricket.
"I fear for the future of cricket ... If I'm a young man growing up today and you are going to pay me $800,000 for six weeks work, I'm certainly not going to spend time in the nets busting a gut improving my technique to play Test cricket ... Where are the youngsters going to come from to play Test cricket? They can't develop into Test players if they play Twenty20."
So, sour grapes from a man who was never paid well? Or – scary thought – could he be right?
In T20, the late Tony Greig once declared, you "must not leave the ball." Every time the leather's let loose it's an opportunity to score four or a six. That sounds like fun, but does it sound like batting? Many purists say the answer is no.
"You don't need intelligence for T20," insists former Sri Lankan great Arjuna Ranatunga. "You don't need talent for T20. You don't need skills for T20. You need only power and a strong head."
Whether or not Ranatunga's right about that, T20 is clearly bad for bowlers. According to a recent survey, most Cricket Australia players believe that T20 encourages negative, conservative, defensive bowling, and it's hard to see how they're wrong. Time and time again, plodding medium pacers prove far more effective than bowling fast with freedom and flair.
And there's no question that spinners are suffering. A young, developing spinner "should not be encouraged to take away his spin to try and bowl four overs and go for less than 50," as Shane Warne's late mentor, Terry Jenner, once pointed out. Selectors "may as well roll out a bowling machine. If we are looking for Test cricketers, we are not going to find them in Twenty20".
And if we're looking for patient cricketers, we're in trouble too. The five-day game requires a five-day mindset: the ability to slowly carve out an innings, or snare a wicket with a long-term plan. During IPL-obsessed India's recent tour to England, it sometimes seemed like their batsmen had forgotten how to defend.
Let's not forget physical stamina, either: Test bowlers have been breaking down at an alarming rate in recent years. Is this simply a matter of too much cricket? Or are all those gym sessions undermining their endurance for the sake of T20-friendly power and speed?
So, is Ranatunga right? Does it take no skill to slog? No, it just takes skill of a different kind.
"Wristiness and elegance may give way to expressions of athleticism and pure power," over the next few decades, says Michael Atherton, "but batting standards generally are on the rise."
Take the athletic and powerful David Warner, a man purists once dismissed as a T20 specialist. Nowadays he's the man that gave us that glorious 69-ball Test century – a "glorious exhibition of unrestrained but technically excellent hitting," complete with that switch-hit six. When we see more men like Warner, it may be that defensive batting skills will have suffered, but attacking skills will have grown in their place.
Not to mention other skills. "I reckon you need to have at least two strings to your bow (to play short-form cricket)" says Australia's captain, Michael Clarke. "You need to be able to give your team a few overs or be a specialist fieldsman in a certain position to take that vital catch ... I see overs from a lot of the batters as (being as) important as the overs you get out of your frontline quicks ... And the runs our tail make are as important as the ones the top order make."
It's true to say that attacking bowling and defensive batting are a big part of Test matches, and it may be true that they're both under threat.
But no analysis should simply stop there. Of far more importance to the future of cricket is having future people who actually play it. Simply put, T20 draws the kids. T20 puts bums on seats. T20 makes kids join teams. T20 could be played at the Olympics. T20 will grow the game.
More cricketers means more good cricketers. And, who knows, maybe better Tests.
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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.