While T20 cricket was conceived as a way for cash-strapped boards to make some money on the side, its growth in the last decade has led to fears it might devour the longest form of the game.
The official line is that T20 can spread the game and encourage newcomers to the five-day Test matches, or 50-over one-day internationals.
“We want to make sure all three formats of the game – Test, ODI and T20 – are going to able to co-exist well into the future and not only survive but flourish,” said International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson.
But with the proliferation of domestic T20 tournaments giving players the chance to earn more in six weeks than they get from their boards in a year, some stars are turning their back on Tests.
The recently sold IPL media rights clearly shows that the T20 leagues are growing all over the world. The IPL is now compared with NFL and the prestigious Premier League Football.
India is the biggest market of cricket which gives BCCI the power to dictate term and the growing popularity of T20 leagues in India will also impact how the game is played in other cricketing nations.
Sony bought the IPL rights back in 2009 from the World Sports Group for US$ 918 million for a period of nine years. Now after eight years, the face of Indian cricket and the IPL has changed dramatically. The cureent rights that also for a period of five years were sold for a whooping US$ 2.55 billion.
IPL is only a 10 year old product which shows how giant it has become in such a short span and is expected to grow even further.
And with Tests often attracting paltry crowds, some players worry T20 cricket is endangering the format it was meant to underwrite.
“I think it does threaten the traditional game,” said England skipper Eoin Morgan, before admitting he didn’t have any solution to the problem.
This year’s World T20 in India is the third on the sub-continent in a little over three years. In contrast the ODI World Cup is every four years.
Players such as the West Indies’ Gayle have stopped playing Tests and instead earn big bucks in tournaments such as Australia’s Big Bash or the Bangladesh Premier League.
Gayle has admitted he would “not be so sad” if Test cricket died a death, while de Villiers – South Africa’s Test captain and still only 32 – recently acknowledged rumours he was thinking of quitting international cricket in favour of Twenty20 tournaments.
“There are big tournaments going on around the world and some of them you can’t ignore because financially they make a huge difference in our lives,” he said.
The biggest is the Indian Premier League (IPL) where an evening’s entertainment features cheerleaders, fireworks and cameos by Bollywood stars.
Speaking outside the Wankhede, home to India’s board and the Mumbai Indians IPL side, Indian fan Rohit Bhosale said he only had time for T20s.
“The whole crowd seems to be enjoying T20 cricket more than the one-day or Test cricket,” he said.
India’s board was initially cool on T20 cricket and only agreed to send a team to the first World T20 in South Africa in 2007 to secure the right to host the 2011 ODI World Cup.
But the ecstatic reaction to India’s eventual victory prompted a rethink and the IPL’s birth.
Indian legend Kapil Dev said there was no point trying to hold back the tide and “the T20 format is the future”.
“There is no doubt that Test cricket is far superior – but then the public, young and old, are hooked on to this format. It does not matter whether I like it or not!” he wrote in India’s Mail Today newspaper.