Australia captain Ricky Ponting has warned of a "really dangerous" future for Test cricket. "I gave the Bradman Oration last year and I stated that what I want for the next generation of Australians is to do what I've done: play 150 Tests and represent their country for a long time," Ponting told the Wisden Cricketer. "But something in the back of my head says that their focus could switch from that to being attracted by the glitz and glamour of Twenty20 and the money that might be around."
Interestingly, a survey conducted by the Australian Cricketers' Association earlier found that the majority of centrally-contracted players were not convinced that representing Australia will be the pinnacle of their sport in a decade's time.
The results appeared to confirm Ponting's statements: the financial rewards from Twenty20 could, for many players, prove more enticing than the prospect of national selection.
Though Ponting had already decided not to turn out for Kolkata Knight Riders in the forthcoming IPL season due to his Australian commitments, many of his team-mates are expected to take part in the tournament, even as doubts persist over player security and the tournament schedule.
Ponting was also alarmed about the lack of concern shown by the top execuitives of world cricket, who he believed did not understand the impact of player burn-out.
"Administrators just don't see burn-out," he said. "Players are the only ones who know when they can get themselves up to 100%. As an international sportsman you don't want to be playing when you're not at your absolute best.
"In the last few months quite a few of our players have been on the edge of not being able to get themselves up to 100% all the time. Someone like Mike Hussey would have played as much as anybody around, I reckon."
Australia played 17 Tests, 18 ODIs and two Twenty20 internationals in 2008, and the count already stands at three Tests, 10 ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals in a little over three months in 2009.
Once finished with the three Tests and five ODIs on the tour of South Africa, Australia are scheduled to play five ODIs and a Twenty20 against Pakistan in the UAE in April-May. They then head to England to defend the Ashes, where they will also play seven one-dayers. They arrive in India next, in October, for a seven-match ODI series before ending the year with Test series at home against Pakistan and West Indies.