India’s captain Virat Kohli is “hurt” by the commercial side of cricket taking over the “real quality” of the game and he has raised concerns over the 100-ball competition proposed by the ECB in April this year.
Initially, the 100-ball concept proposed two eight-team tournaments – for men’s and women’s teams – consisting of 15 traditional six-ball overs, and a final 10-ball over, a 20-delivery shortfall on traditional T20 matches.
Kohli did back T20 leagues, but said he wasn’t open to the concept of experimenting with a new format. “Obviously for the people involved in the whole process [of the 100-ball competition] and the set-up it will be really exciting but I cannot think of one more format, to be honest,” Kohli told Wisden Cricket Monthly. “I’m already very… I wouldn’t say frustrated, but sometimes it can get very demanding of you when you have to play so much cricket regularly. I feel somewhere the commercial aspect is taking over the real quality of cricket and that hurts me.
“Honestly, I don’t want to be a testing sort of a cricketer for any new format. I don’t want to be someone who’s going to be part of that World XI who comes and launches the 100-ball format. I love playing the IPL, I love watching the BBL, because you’re working towards something, competing against high-quality sides and it gets your competitive juices flowing. That’s what you want as a cricketer. I’m all for the leagues, but not to experiment.”
The mushrooming growth of T20 leagues has impacted cricket’s landscape in recent years, with the ICC’s Full Members now on the verge of clamping down on player participation in domestic T20 leagues. In light of T20 cricket posing a threat to the longest format, Kohli urged the cricket boards to step up and work towards improving the quality of first-class cricket.
“If you’re not going to give more importance to first-class cricket, then people are going to lose motivation to play the longest format of the game,” Kohli said. “And with the T20 format coming in I think there’s far greater responsibility on all the cricket boards across the world to treat first-class cricket really well, because if the facilities and the standard goes up, then the motivation always stays. You don’t want players to get into that mindset where they’re finding the easy way out.”
The World Test championship that begins in July 2019 with an Ashes series, India’s tour to the Caribbean and New Zealand touring Sri Lanka is ICC’s attempt to help revive Test cricket. The league phase of the inaugural edition is set to be played between July 2019 and March 2021, after which the top two teams will play the final.
“I think the Test Championship is going to give a huge push to Test cricket,” Kohli said. “It makes every series more competitive, and there’s going to be ups and downs throughout the Championship, which I really look forward to.”