Darren Sammy and Shahid Afridi, Hampshire’s World T20-winning overseas stars, have echoed Jos Buttler’s criticisms of the NatWest T20 Blast, admitting that the tournament’s once-a-week “appointment to view” format makes it hard for specialist players to maintain their form and focus over the course of an elongated tournament.
Buttler, who recently completed his maiden stint in the IPL with Mumbai Indians, told the Daily Mail that English cricket needed a “Big Bash-style tournament” if it wanted to bring out the best in England’s white-ball cricketers.
“It’s frustrating for the players and the fans that we don’t have a competition like the IPL,” Buttler said. “It feels as if our domestic players are missing out. After all, we did create Twenty20, but we’ve not taken it on.
“Our teams don’t have to have different names, but we should have fewer teams, and go with a Big Bash-style tournament. And if you hold it as a block, you’re going to attract the best players.”
His sentiments were echoed by two men who have ruled the world in T20 cricket – Sammy, who captained West Indies to victory in both the 2012 and, most recently, the 2016 World T20, when England were beaten in a thrilling final in Kolkata, and Afridi, who was Man of the Match when Pakistan beat Sri Lanka in the 2009 World T20 final at Lord’s.
“It’s a difficult tournament, at least three months, it’s long,” Sammy told ESPNcricinfo. “It can be frustrating playing one or two games every weekend. It’s Twenty20, you’ve got to be playing it fast.
Sammy and Afridi both played in Hampshire’s double-header over the recent weekend, at home against Kent and then away against Glamorgan, but their next outing will be a trip to Canterbury on Wednesday, leaving a lot of down-time for the players to fill.
“I want my six-pack again,” Sammy joked. “I am probably going to have a set schedule to do some gym. Most of the time the first team is away during the week, so I’ll get some training in with the second team. I’ll probably visit London with my family, and get some net practice in.”
“England is my second home, I always enjoy my cricket here,” added Afridi. “But I’ve already talked to a few officials, that we should organise it and finish it in a month. It’s not easy playing one game then a four-day game then another T20, but as a professional cricketer you can adjust yourself.”
The players’ comments echo the remarks of the ECB chairman, Colin Graves, who denounced the NatWest T20 Blast as “mediocre” before a ball had been bowled in this season’s tournament. For Sammy, who was in England during the inaugural year of the Twenty20 Cup in 2003, the difference between then and now is stark.
“I remember back in 2003, when I was here in June, everybody’s on the train wearing helmets, I was like ‘what’s going on?’ It was T20, England started this thing and now, to see it going on all over in that period of time…
“But the standard has always been of good quality, and that’s the most important thing,” he added, citing the progression of England’s team to the final of the World T20 in Kolkata, where only Carlos Brathwaite’s astonishing six-hitting in the final over stood between them and a second World T20 title.
“I was not surprised they made it to the finals, actually. We played them in the very first match in Mumbai, we defeated them but since then they didn’t look back,” said Sammy. “We met again in the finals, Carlos did his thing in the last over, but it shows England have quality T20 players.
“Joe Root is a world-class player, Ben stokes, Jos Buttler – they’ve come through playing T20 in England. The standard is good so I wasn’t surprised to see England play well. They’ve won a World Cup before [World T20 in 2010] and I know they don’t play much around the world, so whatever T20 they are playing here, it’s about high standards. That’s why they are making it to finals of world tournaments.”
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.