World cricketer of the year Shivnarine Chanderpaul says players are increasingly eyeing the huge paychecks offered by Twenty20 cricket but believes the Test format will remain the game's gold standard.
Chanderpaul defended the controversial Stanford Super Series tournament, which saw the winners take home millions of dollars, after a warning from Australian captain Ricky Ponting that the money from Twenty20 is threatening the future of Test cricket in some countries.
Named the 2008 International Cricket Council Cricketer of the Year in September, the 34-year-old West Indies batsman said it was possible to make as much money in just a few weeks playing the short game as over months on the gruelling international circuit.
"Twenty20 is where it's headed right now," Chanderpaul said. "A lot of the players are gearing up to play Twenty20 because there is a lot of money in it."
He said the short version of the game was also attractive for players with families, who traditionally have had to put up with months on the road.
Chanderpaul, who played Twenty20 for the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) this year, also appeared in the Stanford Super Series in the West Indies for the victorious Stanford Superstars.
Bankrolled by Texan billionaire Allen Stanford, the tournament came in for heavy criticism, with former England and Wales Cricket Board chief Lord McLaurin calling the megabucks final on November 1, in which the Superstars walked off with one million dollars a man and a vanquished England nothing, "obscene" and a "pantomime".
But left-hander Chanderpaul, a mainstay of the West Indies batting for over a decade, described it as a "beautiful" event.
Chanderpaul, who has a Test average of just under 50 in his 112-match career, said Test cricket would remain the ultimate challenge for players and the best test of quality.
"Everybody dreams of playing Test cricket," said Chanderpaul, speaking in Hong Kong where he played in the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes before jetting to Abu Dhabi for the current one-day international series against Pakistan.
"I enjoy Test cricket a lot. I enjoy all of it but Test cricket the most."
But he admitted that at a time of great turbulence in the world game, he did not know what the future would hold.
"Some of the players will focus mainly on Twenty20 and some will want to play all the games," said the West Indian.
Chanderpaul's comments came amid a warning this week from Australia captain Ricky Ponting of the dangers posed by a preoccupation with Twenty20.
Ponting said the amount of money offered by the IPL made it hard for some players to continue to play for their country, according to comments reported in Australia's The Age newspaper.
"We cannot afford to lose teams such as New Zealand and the West Indies from international cricket, but my fear is that this could happen if the game cannot strike a balance between Tests and one-day internationals and the IPL's riches," Ponting wrote in his Captain's Diary 2008, the report said.
"Unless such a balance can be achieved, I could see some countries' cricket teams declining in the way Zimbabwe's sides have struggled over the past few years."
The challenge to traditional cricket authorities is shown by the fact that already, 14 frontline Bangladeshi players have deserted the national team to join the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), while Sri Lanka's tour of England next year has been cancelled because of their players' IPL commitments.