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Test cricket could switch to once-a-year event, says Rajasthan Royals owner

Manoj Badale suggests shift to Wimbledon-style showpiece to boost fan interest.

5 May 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Test cricket needs to be “more of an event”, says Badale
  • 55-year-old believes there are too many formats
  • IPL franchises set to “become bigger entities” and “play in more leagues”

Test cricket might morph into short, annual events like the Wimbledon tennis Grand Slam, according to the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) Rajasthan Royals owner Manoj Badale.

Speaking on the BBC’s Tailenders podcast, Badale said cricket’s longest format needed to be “more of an event” in order to attract fans who are continuing to favour the game’s shorter offerings, particularly Twenty20.

Badale, the co-founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Blenheim Chalcot, also pointed to the packed calendar, estimating that top players can play cricket between 220 and 230 days of the year across T20, one-day and Test matches.

“We can make Test cricket work if we make it more of an event,” said Badale.

“We should have it at the same time every year, played between a small set of nations that can actually afford it and Lord’s [Cricket Ground] becomes like a Wimbledon, an event that is the diary.

“The amount of times I hear arguments like ‘Ben Stokes [the England men’s Test captain] wants to play Test cricket’ – that is important but what is really important is what the fans of the future want to watch and where are they going to spend their hard-earned money.

“We are going to have to think creatively about Test cricket if we want it to work.”

Badale added that he believes there are “too many formats” and one-day internationals (ODIs) could be under threat.

Discussing the increasing influence of the IPL, Badale said he expects franchises to “become bigger entities” and “play in more leagues”.

“I do genuinely believe in the next three to five years there are a number of choices that the administrators are going to make that are going to be really game-defining,” he said.

“We are the second most-popular sport in the world at the moment but our real competition is other forms of entertainment.

“We’ve got too many franchise leagues now so you can have a hierarchy of the IPL, some major leagues and then some minor leagues.”

IPL team owners have already bought T20 teams in the Caribbean, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Africa and the US. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has reacted by giving the go-ahead for the introduction of multi-year central contracts for their men’s cricketers amid the potential for international players to be tied down to franchises in domestic T20 competitions.

Badale also gave his thoughts on The Hundred, which the ECB introduced in 2021. The 100-ball format was brought in to help attract a more diverse audience to cricket. However, reports emerged last week the competition could be scrapped and turned into a T20 league after it made a loss of UK£9 million (US$11.3 million) in its first two years.

“I don’t think the right question is ‘what are you losing?’, it is ‘what are you prepared to invest?’,” Badale said.

“People go on about the IPL now but there were hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the first five to seven years. Everyone forgets it was loss-making for years.

“I saw an article that The Hundred lost nine million dollars, that is irrelevant to me. If there is an economical model that works it could be huge.”

Even so, Badale stated that he was unconvinced by the 100-ball format, which is yet to be adopted in other countries.

“I tend to agree that T20 works, why do we need another format?,” he said.

“I do think administrators tend to prioritise trying to look different over what we should prioritise.

“The problem they were trying to solve with The Hundred is that T20 games were getting too long, and I do think four and a half hours is too long, but you don’t have to solve that by changing the format.”

A key player in the cricketing landscape in the coming years looks set to be financial power of Saudi Arabia, with the country recently linked to a deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) around a another new T20 league. Now, English county club Yorkshire are reportedly in negotiations with Saudi investors over buying a stake.

According to the Daily Mail, Yorkshire have held talks with Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al Saud, who is a Saudi prince and government official, to buy out the UK£15 million (US$18.9 million) debt that the club owes to former chairman Colin Graves.

The offer from Prince Badr would purportedly see him take on Graves’ debt without injecting any equity into Yorkshire. Badr is also believed to be prepared to charge the club less than the four per cent interest it is currently paying to the Colin Graves Trust, which has agreed to push back a UK£5 million (US$6.3 million) repayment it is owed until October to enable Yorkshire to complete the season. 

The Daily Mail adds that a further cash injection from Badr into Yorkshire could follow at a later date.

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