Shane Warne has called for a golf-style revolution in Test cricket in order to secure the future of the red-ball game.
The former Australian leg-spinner said Test cricket needed to adopt what the PGA Tour in the US did with the FedEx Cup, which sees the best golfers compete annually in a play-off for a prize of USD$10million (£7.6million).
Warne said the International Cricket Council (ICC) should offer a pot of USD$20million (£15.18million) in order to energise the five-day game and called for better marketing of Test cricket.
“I would love to see the ICC say for the team over a cycle where you play everyone home and away, there is a prize of USD$20million and they can give it to charity, grassroots cricket or whatever,” Warne said.
“I also think we have got to hope that the best players in the world take responsibility and say they want to test themselves against the best, to be the best, and the best arena to do that is Test cricket.
'It was the happiest time of my life, we're still friends now' says cricketer Shane Warne commenting on his relationship with model, Liz Hurley. pic.twitter.com/S8vZlGkcrg— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) October 9, 2018
“The best team will always win over five days and the drama unfolds. You see some amazing draws where people hang on right until the end. Those are some of the most exciting games we have seen where the team hangs for a draw.”
Warne said they marketing of cricket focused too much on the Twenty20 competitions, such as the T20 Blast, the Big Bash or the IPL.
“It’s always the Twenty20 cricket that gets the big dollars thrown at them,” he said.
“So I would like to see people get re-educated about Test cricket and why it is so great and get the best players talking about it, do documentaries about Test cricket.
“The other side of the coin is are we ramming it down people’s throats that don’t want it?
“I hope it is not the case, I hope players take responsibility and say, ‘I want to play Test cricket’ and we will see Test cricket live on forever.
“When we think of the best players that we’ve ever seen, we always talk about what they did in the Test match arena and not what they did in Twenty20.”
Warne, who was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote his autobiography No Spin, also said he thought Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were treated “too harshly” in the fallout from the sandpaper ball tampering scandal.
“I think all of us in the cricket community were appalled by the behaviour of the Australian cricket team. It was embarrassing to see,” Warne said.
“I can’t believe it would get to that stage. I was really disappointed with the Australian team’s win at all costs attitude.”
Warne said that the uncompromising, aggressive attitude of the current Australian team had annoyed the other Test sides and the cricket authorities had wanted to “nail” them.
“I think the sandpaper… when the opposition captain at the same time had been done twice and never missed a match… it was a bit weird,” Warne said.
“I am not condoning it in any shape or form. I don’t believe that a 12-month ban, sacked as captain and vice-captain was appropriate. That was too harsh.
“If you work it out to a monetary amount it was about 10million Australian dollars (£5.42million) for Steve Smith and David Warner. That’s a significant amount of money.
“Steve Smith as a captain is not an idiot and he’s just made a huge error in judgement.”
The Australian sporting public like nothing more than a comeback. A team or a player that shows ticker, heart, fighting spirit.
In the Aussie lexicon there is no higher praise then being described as “gritty”.
And that is exactly what captain Tim Paine and his new look Baggy Greens showed in the bucket load during the drawn First Test against Pakistan in Dubai, which finished on Thursday.
A battling performance that has already been christened – The Stand in the Sand.
Written off as they began the fourth innings chasing an unlikely victory target of 462, the Australians dug in on a fast deteriorating pitch and somehow survived 140 overs from the wily Pakistan attack, including spin maestro Yasir Shah and impressive debutant Bilal Asif.
Australia's first-Test hero Usman Khawaja praised for his training regimen and willingness to step up as a senior player: https://t.co/HovFcaLzUp— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) October 12, 2018
Even better were the players who carried the brunt of the survival story.
In-and-out batsman Usman Khawaja, re-cast as an opener due to the suspension of regular openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, finally wiped away any questions about his test credentials with a stunning match return of 226, inclusive of a game high 141 off 302 balls in the fourth innings.
The performance took him into the top ten of the ICC Test batting rankings for the first time in his 34-Test career.
Debutant Travis Head also rose to the challenge in the second dig. After being dismissed for a nine-ball duck in his first innings, the 24-year-old South Australian defied the Pakistan attack for over three hours as he compiled a fighting 72, as part of a fourth-wicket partnership with Khawaja worth 132.
A mention also has to be made of another debutant, Aaron Finch, who showed his mettle in the red-ball game with scores of 62 and 49, after starring for many years in white-ball cricket.
But perhaps most surprising of all was the oft-derided “stand-in” captain Paine who more than anybody made sure Australia held on for the draw, batting for nearly four hours on the final day to compile a patient 61 off 194 balls.
There are very few who would have believed the 33-year-old Tasmanian, in just his 14th Test, was capable of that prior to the match.
Upon completing his batting masterpiece, the second-longest fourth innings in the history of all Tests, Usman Khawaja declared it proof that he was as hard a worker as anyone https://t.co/25Kjp6hXyu #PAKvAUS pic.twitter.com/oHcsxQNre2— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) October 12, 2018
Together he and Nathan Lyon, a player too who had to battle to re-establish himself in the Test arena, survived the last tension-filled 12 overs in a result that is being favourably compared to Hobart 1999.
Aussie boss Justin Langer, in just his first Test as head coach, knows a lot about backs-to-the-wall performances like his team showed in the UAE, as it was he and wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist who thwarted the Pakistan team 19 years ago.
After being 126-5, Langer (127) and Gilchrist (149no) guided Australia to victory as they finished 369-6 in that famous Tasmania Test.
That effort has always been a key part of the Langer story, as Dubai will now be a part of Paine, Khawaja, and Head’s.
Langer revealed that he had spoken of that performance to the team on the morning of day five.
“I actually talked about that Test match to the boys before the game,” Langer explained.
“I remember that Test match because it was against Pakistan obviously and there was personal involvement. It was an important game for individuals but more importantly the team.
“We felt if we could win from there we could win from anywhere. For us to draw from where we’ve been throughout (the Dubai) game that’s going to be a huge confidence booster to help us build this team
“I’ve got no doubt for this young team and for a very young captain, that’s a booster for them. Never underestimate how victories like that, even though it was a draw, are significant for building a team.”
As dramatic as day five in Dubai was, it means nothing unless the team now go on to perform well in Abu Dhabi.
If the Aussies are beaten in four days in the Second Test, the Stand in the Sand will be quickly forgotten.
But if it is anything like Hobart 1999, the result can be used to propel the team on to greater heights (that Aussie team went on to win 16 straight Tests). Day five in the Emirates might be seen as the moment a new Australian team was forged.
It all comes down to Abu Dhabi and the Test which begins on Tuesday, where we will discover whether the gritty effort in Dubai was indeed a watershed for a fledgling side or another false dawn.
Usman Khawaja revealed he went into the final day with the same batting approach as his century helped Australia salvage a thrilling draw in the first Test against Pakistan.
The tourists started the day at 136-3 but Khawaja, 31, was in fine form at Dubai International Cricket Stadium as he struck his seventh Test century. His 141 runs came off 302 deliveries and although he was dismissed by Yasir Shah, the Australians grinded out a deserved draw.
It was Khawaja’s first ton in Asia and the batsman said he would not have been able to get triple figures if he changed his approach at the crease.
“I was batting like any other innings,” he said. “I wasn’t worried whether it was the fourth innings or saving the match. I just wanted to bat because I knew if I went away from batting normally then I was more likely get out to those conditions. Being a left-hander, Yasir Shah was bowling to my right and it was tough, so I just knew I had to play in any normal situation. For me, the best way is to score runs and stay here. We were pretty positive throughout and it was more of a mindset thing and staying positive as these conditions are tough.”
It was Australia’s first Test since the sandpaper scandal that saw Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner suspended. And skipper Tim Paine praised his players for how they pulled off the draw.
“I’m just really proud with the whole group on how they stuck to their plans and kept digging in for what was a great Test innings,” said Paine.
“We always want to play good cricket and we spoke pre-season about showing real patience and it’s one thing to talk about it, but a different matter to do it on the pitch. Full credit to the players as we never lost hope. There were times where we thought it was part of a dream but we dug in.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed described Khawaja’s innings ‘as one of the best he’s seen in the fourth innings’.
“The way he batted and he played a big role in helping them draw the game. Credit goes to him and played good shots and he played really well,” he said.