Scrap international T20s and consider shortening Test matches, says Stephen Fleming

Cricket should scrap Twenty 20 international matches and give four-day Tests real consideration to draw bigger crowds to the sport, according to one of the game’s most respected tacticians.

Former New Zealand captain-turned-Melbourne Stars coach Stephen Fleming also said losing to South Africa in Perth should act as a jolt to the Australian team, which was under a great deal of pressure to lift its game.

Once described by Australian spin king Shane Warne as the best captain in world cricket, Fleming said the world was getting faster and Test cricket was not keeping up.

Although he was not yet completely convinced of the need to shorten the traditional five-day Test format, he was leaning in favour of changing it to four.

It would mean matches could run from Thursday to Sunday, with the players on the ground for slightly longer each day.

Fleming said five-day Test matches too often ambled along and may not be dynamic enough for modern audiences.

“There are periods during the game now when it drifts and audiences have dropped off,” he said.

“At times I’ve commentated and watched a Test and it’s meandered through rather than pushed on.”

Captains may need to be encouraged to play faster, a style that was more natural to a new generation of players that had grown up playing T20 cricket.

Fleming said any change to test Traditions would be difficult, but the matter seemed to now be open to discussion in cricket circles, whereas in the past it would have been seen as fanciful.

“It’s history you’re dealing with and the fear of changing something that’s been in place for so long and so many people have played it, it means so much to the people who have played it,” he said.

Fleming said he had once believed one-day cricket would die with the increased popularity of T20, but the popularity of last year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand had proven otherwise.

Instead international T20 could be cancelled to help clear cricket’s crowded schedule.

“That will free up a little more time, on players and selectors and even in respect of a country’s cost to send a T20 side over,” Fleming said.

After making a strong start against South Africa at the WACA, Australia went on to lose by 177 runs.

The team’s three Test losses in Sri Lanka mid-year could be explained away by difficult overseas conditions, Fleming said, not so their loss in Perth.

“There’s some talented players around, but when you start giving consistent performances that have the players under pressure, you start seeing the cracks appear,” he said.

Fleming said it was a challenging time for the Australian team, but he encouraged captain Steve Smith to focus on creating the next great period of Australian cricket, rather than feeling upset about the recent losses.

He said the Australian side could improve quickly.

“It comes back to that vision of where Steve and [Australian coach] Darren Lehmann want the side to be and sticking to that and looking at this as a short-term challenge,” he said.

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