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Telegraph writer roundly pilloried for proposing white-ball players be banned from first-class cricket

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read

An article in The Telegraph by Simon Heffer has been roundly pilloried for suggesting that the ECB ban any player who plays a limited-overs match from playing first-class cricket for a year.

Heffer’s piece came on the back of the revelation that Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, two of England’s all-format players, would miss stretches of the upcoming Test series in India. National selector Ed Smith has explained that this is an effort to give all of England’s multi-discipline cricketers a rest at some point at the start of 12-month period which could see England break their own record for the most Tests played in a year and try and win a T20 World Cup too.

However, Heffer took it as evidence that Buttler’s “mind clearly remains open” on “what a great game Test cricket it [sic]”.

Buttler explained back in 2018 how Test cricket was, to him, the “ultimate”. “I think it always will be for players of my generation,” he said. “You get that feeling talking to everyone that they still feel Test cricket is the best.”

Heffer’s piece started with an extolling of the virtues of India’s thrilling win in the fourth Test against Australia at the Gabba. It neglected to mention, however, how India’s two stars in the chase, Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill, forged a significant amount of their reputations playing in the IPL, and showed the fearlessness imbued in them by the shortest format in chasing down over 300 on the final day.

Heffer went on to propose a solution to the problem as he sees it: “The time must now be approaching for the ECB to consider separating the codes of first-class (including Test) and one-day cricket,” he wrote. “Indeed, doing so may be the only way to preserve the former and give it any credibility. No player should be prevented from just playing limited-overs cricket for England, his county, or as a mercenary for a side in India or elsewhere: but if he does, he should be made to register as a one-day player and could not alter that registration until 12 months later.

“This would stop the drive towards England putting out what will increasingly come to look like a second XI to represent it in Test matches.”

The mooted move would see only Dom Bess, Jack Leach and James Anderson, from England’s XI picked to face Sri Lanka in the second Test, eligible to play first-class cricket. For the India XI Heffer was so fulsome in his praise of for their efforts at Brisbane, only Cheteshwar Pujara would survive the theoretical cull.

Heffer’s piece came in for almost universal criticism on Twitter, with Telegraph Sport’s tweet of the article, at the time of writing, having been liked just six times and sent over 100 responses.

Among these included a reply starting, “‘How to kill Test cricket’ would be a more apt headline,” by Philip Wright, liked five times more than the original tweet, and criticism from Barney Ronay, chief sports writer at the Guardian, who commented, “No sentient human could ever seriously think this”.

Alan White, editor-in-chief of PoliticsHome, called it, “Quite simply the stupidest proposal about sport ever written in the history of British journalism.”

Of the other responses, many contained just emojis or gifs to convey bafflement, while many more contained words not suitable for printing.


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