Test cricket might go down to five or six teams, says former South Africa captain Graeme Smith

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Graeme Smith talks to Sky Sports about Test cricket’s future and South Africa’s new T20 league: “I don’t think world cricket can afford South Africa or a top nation to fade away. This league helps. Hopefully it will flow into Test cricket standards”

Last Updated: 21/08/22 4:07pm

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith: ‘With Test cricket, it’s just iconic nations or the big cricketing nations that are contributing at the moment’

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith believes Test cricket could “be down to five or six nations” in the future.

The 2023-2027 Future Tours Programme was released this week, revealing that England will play 43 Tests in that period, Australia 40 and India 38 – but South Africa only 28 and Pakistan just 27.

Speaking to Sky Sports during the opening Test at Lord’s, which South Africa won inside three days, Smith said: “With Test cricket, it’s just iconic nations or the big cricketing nations that are contributing at the moment.

“I think it’s fantastic that, especially under Virat Kohli, India really took Test cricket seriously. They lead the way with that.

“But as long as we’ve got competitive teams, you’re not going to have 10, 11, 12, 13 or 14 competitive teams. You might only be down to five or six nations that play Test cricket at this level.”

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Michael Atherton and Shaun Pollock on the impact of Kagiso Rabada, Allan Donald, Dale Steyn and more as they look at South Africa’s all-time fast-bowling greats

Michael Atherton and Shaun Pollock on the impact of Kagiso Rabada, Allan Donald, Dale Steyn and more as they look at South Africa’s all-time fast-bowling greats

Sky Sports Cricket pundit Michael Atherton added: “I hope there is a place for Test cricket. I know the game changes but if it lost cricket played over a multi-day format it would lose something precious.

“Leadership is needed at the top of the table to carve out space for the five-day game and also first-class cricket in your domestic competition, which you need.”

South Africa currently sit top of the ICC World Test Championship and Smith believes his country remain eager to succeed in the five-day arena.

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Highlights from day three of the first Test at Lord’s as South Africa stormed to an innings victory over England

Highlights from day three of the first Test at Lord’s as South Africa stormed to an innings victory over England

Smith: New T20 League vital for South Africa

The 41-year-old says the introduction of South Africa’s new franchise T20 league, of which he is commissioner, will help cricket in the country develop across the formats.

The competition begins in January and the Proteas’ top players will be available after South Africa pulled out of an ODI series in Australia at the same time in order to prioritise the T20 league.

Smith added: “I felt it was important for South Africa to gets its own commercial league going, like the rest of the world has. For four weeks of an entire year, the priority will be the league.

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“I fear if we hadn’t done this South Africa could probably have lost eight to 10 players to this UAE T20 league so there has to be an element of investment to keep our players.

“There is also an opportunity for our players to interact with top players and coaches in a really professional cricket environment.

“Hopefully that will increase the talent pool. The key is the money will flow back into the game. It is an investment I think South Africa cricket desperately needed.

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Smith reflects on his double century at Lord’s in 2003 and his tenure as South Africa captain

Smith reflects on his double century at Lord’s in 2003 and his tenure as South Africa captain

“The pressure on nations like South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies to stay financially stable to keep up with England, India and Australia and keep the game competitive is huge.

“I don’t think world cricket can afford South Africa or one of the top nations to fade away. This league helps that and hopefully it will flow into Test cricket standards, international white-ball standards.”

Watch day one of the second LV= Insurance Test between England and South Africa, from Emirates Old Trafford, live on Sky Sports The Hundred from Thursday. Build-up starts at 10am ahead of the first ball at 11am.

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