Brian Lara on Tests v franchise cricket: ‘WI youngsters use Tests as stepping stone for franchise cricket’

West Indies legend Brian Lara has weighed in on the ‘Test v T20’ debate, arguing that the immense disparity in monetary benefits offered by the two formats makes it difficult to blame players for increasingly preferring franchise cricket.

West Indies are about to start a three-match Test series in England, weeks after a Super Eights exit at the 2024 T20 World Cup.

The West Indies squad includes several uncapped players and does not boast of many players having experience of playing red-ball cricket in England.

Interestingly, only four players featured in both those squads for the West Indies: Alzarri Joseph, Shamar Joseph, Gudakesh Motie, and Jason Holder. Holder was eventually replaced by Obed McCoy for the World Cup before it began. No batter was picked for both the T20 World Cup and the England Tests.

Lara: WI youngsters use Tests as stepping stone for franchise cricket

Speaking on the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, Lara said that the current West Indies Test squad is comprised of players who would “struggle to get into a T20 team”, which is “why they are concentrating on Test matches”.

The Trinidadian, who racked up over 11,000 Test runs over the course of a 16-year career, used Shai Hope as an example of someone who could have had a successful Test career.

Hope became the first batter ever to score back-to-back hundreds (147 & 118*) in a first-class match at Headingley, against England in 2017, but is no longer a part of the side in the longest format.

“By the time he [Hope] scored his two hundreds at Headingley, he was considered to be a future great,” Lara said. “Today, I think we’re trying to ease him back into Test cricket, but I’m not sure he’s too interested.”

Lara suggested that even though Hope broke records at Headingley, the financial opportunities of playing franchise cricket around the world have restricted his red ball prospects and success.

“He’s going to be in the auction for the IPL; he played in the West Indies’ T20 World Cup side,” Lara said, noting his absence from West Indies’ 15-man squad for their Test series against England.

Lara also suggested that an increasing number of West Indian players are now “using the opportunity to wear the West Indies colours” to audition for potentially interested T20 franchises: “I see a lot of these youngsters still using the Test arena or the opportunity to wear the West Indies colours as a stepping stone.

“Somebody gets an opportunity in a 50-over game, blasts a 150, you know, someone’s gonna be looking at him at the T20 level.”

Lara: T20 is here to stay

Lara, however, sympathizes with the players who could have enduring Test careers but choose to prioritise franchise cricket, noting the shifting financial landscape.

“It’s the disparity in payments,” he said. “It’s so huge that you can’t blame somebody for aspiring to be a franchise player.

“We have to move on. I think T20 is here to stay.”

The left-handed batter, who continues to hold the record of the highest individual score in a Test match innings, was, however, more scathing of T10 cricket. “I would push back against T10,” he opined. “That’s just pushing it too far.”

The Kraigg Brathwaite-led West Indies will play the first Test of their three-match series against England on 10 July, at Lord’s, in what will be James Anderson’s final match for England.

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