Melbourne, June 27 : Elite coaches believe the incentives offered by Twenty20 could turn the tables in the age-old battle with football to secure elite talent.
The Federation of International Players' Associations surveyed 64 players from seven Test nations (Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe did not take part), and although 86 percent rated the traditional Test format the most important in the game, the trend towards Twenty20 and the riches on offer in tournaments such as the Indian Premier League was undeniable.
Brian McFadyen, program manager at Cricket Australia's centre of excellence, and Cricket Victoria's high performance academy coach, Simon Helmot, have predicted that cricket would start to win the services of more youngsters with talent in both sports, who are routinely won over by AFL's greater opportunities and reward.
"People are looking at the game differently," Helmot said. "The IPL has shown us that, a) the game is exciting, but, b) there can be a future in cricket - maybe sooner than later.
McFadyen said the "second tier" provided by Twenty20 was exciting, shifting the dynamic that has pitted cricket's 25 top-level contracts plus a state system of six teams, against the likes of the AFL, which boasts 16 teams with 40-plus contracted players each.
"It has the makings of a soccer scenario, where you can play for your country but also in a high-level, professional league," McFadyen said.
"The options are definitely increased, and you're talking real money, serious cash."
A major finding of the survey was that 62 of the 64 players believe the International Cricket Council should schedule a window in its calendar to allow players to participate in club competitions such as the IPL.
The ICC, which has resisted such a move, has its annual executive board meeting in Dubai next week. FICA chief executive Tim May said such a window should be created to preserve a healthy balance between club/franchise cricket and international cricket, "or risk losing players permanently from the international scene".
May said the survey made it clear that players strongly believed Twenty20 cricket would form an important part of the future landscape, but not at the expense of the traditional form of the game.