Protect Test cricket say Stokes and Botham

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Ben Stokes, the captain of England’s Test team, has raised concerns over the scheduling of international cricket, saying the authorities do not give the matter enough thought.

Stokes highlighted England’s three-match one-day international series in Australia in November, which started four days after they won the Twenty20 World Cup.

“That was shoving three games in there,” he said. “It made sense to someone to schedule a series which meant nothing.”

“Some people say ‘you are playing for England, that should be enough’. But there is a lot more to factor in. You want international cricket to be the highest standard.

“But we have seen a lot of different squads being picked and players being rested, and that’s not the way international cricket should go.”

A disinterested-looking England were easily beaten in the series in front of poor crowds.

Stokes was being speaking on BBC Radio to a former great England allrounder Sir Ian Botham as part of a feature on the future of Test cricket.

“Test match cricket is called that for a very good reason, because it tests all the faculties of a player,” said Botham.

“The emphasis is too much towards white ball. [The schedule] should be balanced better. You have to make room for it all.”

The pair spoke about the way in which Stokes, in harness with coach Brendon McCullum, has encouraged England’s Test team to play attacking cricket.

“Test cricket has been spoken about in a way I don’t like,” said Stokes.

“It is losing the attention of the fans with all the new formats and franchise competitions. For me it is so important for the game. I love playing Test cricket and felt we could do something different.

“If people turn up excited about what they are going to watch you’ve already won before a ball has been bowled.”

Botham, who was a noted entertainer as a player, responded: “It’s about putting bums on seats. You will lose the odd game but people are wanting to see Test cricket again. If we lose Test cricket, we lose cricket as we know it.”

Both players are famous for inspiring improbable Test wins against Australia at Headingley, Botham in 1981, Stokes in 2019.

“I was there at Headingley in 2019 and I thought ‘this is fun, this is how it should be played’,” said Botham.

“I loved watching the Aussies, their shoulders dropped, it takes a lot to do that. Stokes is box office. He empties bars.”

Stokes replied: “The miracle of Headingley 1981, everyone who knows cricket knows about that. So for my moment to be compared is pretty cool.”

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