Ravichandran Ashwin has emphasised the need to have more nations playing Tests in order to improve first-class structures, since that is where opportunities in other formats also stem from. The bowler used examples of prominent nations and the current situation in the West Indies to further explain.
The global structure of cricket has come under heavy discussion in recent times owing to the loss in the relevance of ODIs as well as the massive money-making machines that T20s have become. With the fear that Tests, considered to be the sport's pinnacle since time immemorial, could soon become obsolete, several out-of-the-box alternatives have been presented by experts around the world to keep the format alive.
One such suggestion that has been doing the rounds recently is Ravi Shastri's pinion to limit Test cricket to only the top nations, thereby increasing the quality of matches and making them more interesting for spectators. However, Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has come out to contradict his former national team coach explaining how first-class cricket ultimately begets opportunities across the board including in T20s.
"Recently Ravi bhai said Test cricket should be made as a format that only 3-4 nations play. But when 3-4 nations play, teams like Ireland won't get won't get the opportunity to play," he was quoted saying by Hindustan Times on his YouTube channel.
"You can ask me what's the relation between Test cricket and T20 cricket. Only when you play Test cricket, your first-class structure will get better. And only when your first-class structure is good, people will get more opportunities. And players who do well in first-class cricket mould their game according to T20 cricket. That's how cricket has shaped up."
Presently, England is the only country that still manages to sell out its home Test matches, but there is still a considerable level of viewership in countries like Australia and India. Often regarded as the 'Big 3', these countries also have the most prominent first-class tournaments in the world and it is no coincidence that they are highly successful in all formats of the game.
"You can see that from the top three strong Test-playing nations. Of course, you can make that four of five... India, England and Australia. The first-class structure of these nations is extremely strong. In fact, a few are suggesting whether India's first-class structure can be improved further because as we speak, Navdeep Saini and Washington Sundar have gone on and done well in County cricket. Likewise, is there an opportunity for foreign players to come and play Ranji Trophy? These questions are also being raised," Ashwin opined.
The spinner is presently in the Caribbean for a T20I series against West Indies, a country gripped by the T20 culture thus producing the most successful franchise players around the world. However, Ashwin was dismissive of the fact that this fever had led to the demise of red-ball cricket in the region.
"How will you strengthen first-class cricket? For that Test cricket needs to be relevant in your country. If Test cricket is not relevant, they won't play it with full interest. I'm currently in West Indies and here we can see that first-class cricket is almost gone. There are multiple T20 tournaments," Ashwin concluded.