One of the joys of delving around the Net for cricket stuff is finding the sport being played at a first-class level in countries that are more familiar with T20 or ODI cricket. I only found out recently that in Afghanistan a four day tournament has been running for the last month. It’s obviously in its infancy, with only 5 teams participating, but even today Sri Lanka only has a 3 day tournament in its early stages and this competition surpasses that.
However a criticism is that the format is ridiculous and shows one of the blights of the modern era – too much cricket squeezed into too little time, and its negative effects on the players. The tournament only began on Aug 28 and the final is being played at the moment. Some of the teams play back-to-back matches with only two day’s break in between! It seems that the Full Members disregard for the wellbeing of the players spreads down to Associate level. The scheduling of matches is a slur on the game – Australia returned from the Ashes with only a 10 day window before flying off to Bangladesh (although this tour is now in doubt due to security concerns). The number of injuries to players, in particular fast bowlers (for example Australia’s Pat Cummins has played seven first-class matches during his career because of injury and is again out with a stress fracture in his back) is now at epidemic proportions.
And this has an effect on the quality of play, obviously. Rotation of players is a modern aspect of cricket, and teams now have almost separate sides for Tests, ODIs and T20s. There are some players who play in more than one format and the drop-off in quality, particularly at the end of a series, is noticeable as they become more tired and pick up little niggles. Teams try to rest players as much as they can but this short changes the paying public, who rightfully want to see the star attractions. A reduction in the number of ODIs in a bilateral series would be a good start in helping with this issue. I think any more than 3 ODIs is probably overkill, especially as more ODIs increases the chances of non-competitive, dead rubbers. I think all series (with the possible exception of the big series like the Ashes) should follow the 3 Test, 3 ODI, 3 T20 format; easy to market, easy to remember, and with less, but higher quality cricket.
Going back to Afghanistan, I don’t see why the organisers could not move the tournament’s length out by a month and give the players a proper break between matches. Otherwise the burnout issue will become the norm for players at all levels of the game.