Wellington:Sir Richard Hadlee, one of cricket's greatest allrounders, is making another strong appeal to the decision makers: don't betray our game.
Cricket is in danger of being consumed by Twenty20, Hadlee says, while its guardians are distracted by the new income and booming popularity of the shortest form of the international game.
Hadlee, who has legendary status in his native New Zealand, said the exponential growth of T20, particularly the Indian Premier League, had the potential to destroy the more traditional forms of cricket and _ when its popularity eventually waned _ the sport itself.
"The IPL is franchise cricket, it's club cricket, it is not international cricket," Hadlee told New Zealand's domestic news agency NZPA on Tuesday. "We are two years into it and you can see potentially that there will be more and more of it. It will consume the game. Once it has gone too far and people have grown bored with it, it will have destroyed Test cricket and probably 50-over cricket."
Hadlee said the International Cricket Council had to act to deal with increasing problems of congested match schedules caused by the emergence of T20. The possibility the IPL might increase from 56 to 90 games and its playing window from six to eight weeks would only make the situation more difficult, he said.
"We are in grave danger of having the decision makers betraying the game of cricket," he said. "Everything evolves and things keep changing but this is a revolution within the game.
"It's new, marketable, successful and brings in huge money. The danger is overkill, that you have too much of it and it swamps other forms of the game and compromises them.
"If one format of the game like Twenty20 consumes the game as much as it is doing now _ and potentially in the future _ it is destroying the game of cricket as a total concept."
Hadlee, 58, was signed in April as an executive consultant to the nascent American Premier League, a six-team Twenty20 tournament planned for New York in October. The league is unlikely to get off the ground and Hadlee said he remained a cricket traditionalist.
The lure for players is high incomes for a relatively light workload _ a match is over in three hours compared with up to five days for Test cricket and eight hours for a one-day international. The eight IPL franchises offer the richest terms on offer for the elite players, again only requiring a relatively short timeframe each year.
Players from the West Indies became instant millionaires by beating England in a winner-takes-all T20 international earlier this year. Little wonder that Chris Gayle, who was West Indies captain across all formats, alluded to being more interested in T20 than being Test captain.
Then the top West Indies players went on strike over a pay dispute with the board, leaving a second-string squad to lose a Test series at home to lowly ranked Bangladesh _ something unthinkable a generation ago when the fearsome Caribbean team dominated the sport.
Initially, it was enticing for older players to quit international cricket to focus on T20 commitments, because it shortened their season without diminishing their incomes while also extending their playing careers.
Now, it's the emerging players who could be tempted not even to strive to represent their countries in Test cricket and make a fortune from T20 deals.
"I think Test cricket needs to be protected, because it remains the ultimate game and I think a lot of players today would say they enjoy Test cricket more than anything else," Hadlee said. "The point is they are also faced with the other forms of the game where for less effort the rewards are 10 times greater."
Hadlee said he feared the power wielded by India within the international game would prevent the ICC making decisions which would benefit cricket as a whole.
"We all know now that Asia, and more particularly India, have a more powerful say because they generate that much more ... revenue, which other countries benefit from," he said. "So, who protects the game? The decision makers on the ICC have to try and control it so that all the games can coexist and live together."
Hadlee said the sport's governing body must have the power and the right to control and manage the game, much as the International Olympic Committee rules over the Olympics.
"That's important for the game's existence, its survival and its future," he said. "It can't be undermined by a country, or other countries.
"Once country interests are being protected it becomes a destructive element and you have anarchy.
"There is potential for real chaos."