Former Australian captain Mark Taylor says cricket administrators should be concerned by Ben Stokes’ decision to retire from one-day internationals.
The England all-rounder has called it quits from the 50-over format at the age of 31, noting that playing all three formats of the game is unsustainable for his body.
Stokes played a starring role in England’s 2019 World Cup triumph, their first in that format of the game.
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But they’ll defend the trophy in India next year without the inspirational all-rounder, who was recently appointed to the Test captaincy.
“We are not cars,” Stokes told the BBC.
“You can’t just fill us up and we’ll go out there and be ready to be fuelled up again. We had a Test series and then the one-day team had a series going on at the same time – that was a bit silly.
“I just feel like there is too much cricket rammed in for people to play all three formats now. It is a lot harder than it used to be.
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“The more cricket that is played, the better for the sport, but you want a product that is of the highest quality.”
Taylor said those in charge of the game should be worried by how the situation has played out.
“I think alarm bells have been ringing for some time, to be brutally honest,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“The issue is where the game is at with three international formats, then all the domestic T20 leagues, headed up by the IPL which is huge.
“Players like Ben Stokes are in high-demand, and given they’re very well paid by the T20 competitions, eventually something has to give.
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“The unfortunate reality is it’s usually one form of international cricket that has to give.”
Taylor expects more and more players to follow Stokes’ lead as the calendar becomes even more crowded.
“The writing is on the wall for a lot of cricketers, given there’s three forms of international cricket, but then the domestic T20 format has so many options with the different leagues around the world,” he explained.
“Players have the potential to have four or five employers at any one time, and you’d think the market for freelance players is only going to get greater.”
“I don’t know what the answer is,” he added.
“Some people who love their Test and one-day internationals will say that T20 cricket should be played at the domestic level only, which is where it started out.
“There’s a very good argument for that, but the problem is the rich get richer and the poor don’t make anything out of it.
“Everyone would gravitate to the bigger nations like the IPL and the BBL, and the smaller countries would miss out.”
Australia is not immune to the problem, having scheduled one-day internationals against Zimbabwe and New Zealand in Queensland in August and September, matches that will pass almost unnoticed as both the AFL and NRL seasons reach a climax.
“That is so true, and it’s a real problem for the game,” Taylor said.
“But the flipside to that is the size of the 50-over World Cup, which is still one of the world’s biggest sporting events.
“You’ve got this massive event every four years, but it’s a struggle to get people interested in the lead-up games to the World Cup.
“Think back to how big the 2019 World Cup was, and Ben Stokes was one of the stars of that, now he’s retired from that format.
“Do you play less one-dayers, and does that risk the future of the World Cup, which could then be diminished or die altogether. I don’t know how you solve the problem.”
Test skipper Pat Cummins will sit out the matches in Townsville and Cairns, with Cricket Australia confirming he’s “being managed through a period of rehabilitation and physical preparation for the upcoming summer.”
Taylor agreed that the precautions are sensible, but noted the difficulty faced by those in charge.
“Getting the administration of cricket right is very tough. The three formats of the game provide a great opportunity, but at the same time it creates a real conundrum,” he said.
“Multi-format players like Stokes can only play so much cricket, and only want to play so much, and that’s totally understandable.
“I’ve seen it on a personal level, when I was on the CA board if the selectors rested someone like Adam Gilchrist from an ODI there was a hue and cry about leaving out one of your best players.
“That’s a fair point, but at the same time you’ve got to balance that with the possibility that you lose a very good player earlier than you should, because they have to make a decision that’s in their own best interest.
“You’re better off resting them from a game or a series here and there to ensure their longevity. If you pick your best team for every game, you risk a Ben Stokes-situation, where a great player is retiring early.”
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