New Zealand cricket great Sir Richard Hadlee has sent a warning about the future of the sport, raising concerns over the proliferation of Twenty20 cricket.
An interested spectator at Hagley Oval for day one of the Black Caps' second test against India, Hadlee called for test cricket to be preserved, firmly pushing back against the increasing dominance of the white-ball game.
Hadlee spoke in favour of the Test Championship – saying it gives more value and importance to test cricket – as he argued for the retention of the five-day format.
"Test cricket must be preserved, it's got to be protected because it's the foundation on which the game is based, historically. We must look after the five-day test game.
"All three formats need to live together and coexist, but I'd hate to think that T20 cricket will dominate world cricket – there's probably too much T20 cricket being played around the world.
"The danger is with all these formats the players want to play in, there's burnout, there's injury. There are a lot of issues around how cricket is played and managed these days."
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While arguing that Twenty20 cricket is a "revolution in the game", Hadlee doesn't believe it should have an outsized role in the future of the sport.
"The only good thing about the IPL, BBL, Pakistan league and all the other T20 leagues is the opportunity it gives for professional players - as far as a job is concerned, [their] future, developing their game. But I hope the game doesn't try to live or survive off T20 cricket, because it's a form of cricket, but it's not real cricket. Real cricket is test cricket."
However, despite his traditionalist stance on that issue, Hadlee's views are far from "Old man yells at cloud", noting the incredible advancements that today's players have made from his era.
"The players today are far more skilful than the players of yesteryear – I'm not saying they're better players, I'm saying they're more skilful, because they have to be with the formats they play, they have to adapt.
"The bowlers today – they have four or five different balls that they bowl. I only had two, because that's all we needed. It's very clever; I have an admiration of the skillsets that bowlers and batsmen have these days.
Hadlee also had praise for the current Black Caps seamers, noting that Tim Southee and Trent Boult are New Zealand's best bowling combination – a title that was arguably previously held by Hadlee and former new-ball partner Ewen Chatfield.
"Clearly the Southee/Boult combination is our most successful ever, they're wonderful bowlers, and when they're bowling together they'll bowl sides out," Hadlee said.
"When one or both aren't playing our attack is very different. The left/right combination, swing/seam, they're not necessarily fast bowlers but they're brisk and their skillsets are wonderful."
Hadlee has also been impressed by Neil Wagner – second only to Hadlee in terms of speed to reach several bowling milestones – and the way he's managed to find a successful niche at the test level.
"His performances in Australia were phenomenal – the way he kept going while everyone else was falling away, he stood up, and he's had a magnificent last couple of years.
"He's found a method of getting batsmen out, and if it works, you continue with it."