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Mark Butcher: Enjoy the next two World Cups, because we might not see anything like them again

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Speaking on the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Mark Butcher has called England’s domestic schedule a “whole, unholy mess”, prophesying that going forward, World Cups might change significantly owing to the growing demands of the sport.

In the aftermath of Ben Stokes’ retirement from ODIs, conversations around the workload of multi-format players have heightened significantly. Butcher feels that the sport is at a crossroads, with international cricket its losing its priority, and franchise cricket running amok over the cricketing calendar.

“It’s a real mess,” Butcher said. “I know there’s a review coming up, I read something very interesting yesterday about the potential for a 12-team Division One in the Championship. And then the other six teams augmented by four of the best minor county sides to play in Division Two. I mean, there’s lots of wild things knocking around in terms of what might be coming.

“At the moment, it really does feel like a sort of crossroads for the sport. And the bizarre thing is that, in its traditional formats, in the 50-over game and in the 20-over game, and in the Test match arena, it seems as though everything is fine. It’s just when you throw in the franchise teams, when you throw in money from outside of the traditional sources, competitions from outside the ICC’s control… Suddenly the whole thing goes crazy because the players are in control of all of that stuff.

“And the powers that be have had this coming for a very, very long time, simply because they did not foresee that for the boards from countries that were not blessed with the wealth of England, Australia and India, not giving those boards the resources to be able to pay their players enough to make international cricket their priority, they’ve allowed this other beast to grow into something that is now almost uncontrollable.”

Butcher predicts that the dynamics of the game could change significantly in the near future, not just in England, but also internationally, especially in the aftermath of the next two World Cups.

“It’s going to be utterly fascinating what happens in the next six months,” Butcher said, “maybe to a year as to what happens and what our game at home looks like. That’s something for the ECB, Rob Key, [Andrew] Strauss and all the rest to sort out. There’s been a whole unholy mess made around the schedule and now something very, very drastic is needed to try and sort it out. While I don’t think that the moves needed in the first place were as drastic as the ones we’re going to have to use to fix them.

“So that’s on a home level. And then internationally, it looks as though anything goes from now. These next two World Cups, you might want to enjoy them because we might not see anything look like them ever again, beyond the 2023 50-over World Cup and this next 20-over World Cup.”

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