Test or T20? The choice that changes cricket

Chappell: Schedule might see protest from fans and TV broadcasters (4:37)

Ian Chappell believes that Australia's schedule tour to India shows that the administrator's priority is money (4:37)

Cricket history is often simplified in hindsight, isolating cause and effect down to singular moments. England are doomed to an Ashes defeat in 1993 and for years after from the moment Shane Warne bowls "that ball" to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford. Likewise Australia's 2005 defeat comes down to Glenn McGrath, a stray ball and a rolled ankle.

Similarly, the BCCI's announcement of Australia's tour dates for their 2017 Test series feels like another juncture that will come to be seen as symbolic of a tipping point for the international game.

It is not as though the close proximity of matches across formats hasn't occurred before. In 2013 the Australian Test team were engaged in a practice match in India on the same day the T20 team played at the Gabba, and the following year Trevor Bayliss was called in as interim T20 coach when Australia faced South Africa in Adelaide because Darren Lehmann and the Test squad were in transit home from the UAE. This month Australia took a threadbare bowling attack to South Africa for ODIs in order to save their best resources for home Tests.

"Players must choose between formats, despite being told for years that there is room to accommodate all three"

But the sheer starkness of a schedule that does not allow even a single day in between the end of one T20 series and the start of a Test match some 14 hours' flying time away from Australia has sharpened focus on an issue nagging away at cricket. Both these matches - Australia's T20 against Sri Lanka in Adelaide on February 22 and their Test against India in Pune the next day - are considered international contests, not practice fixtures, and both are expected to draw a committed and broad audience, the lifeblood of the game's future.

Players must choose between formats, despite being told for years by the likes of the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland that there is room in the game to accommodate all three. Coaches and selectors must make careful use of their resources and concede privately it is now more or less impossible to aspire to be the world's best in all three at once, despite that very goal being a mission statement for CA.

Rightly, this is being seen as too much for players and followers of the game to stomach. If the administrators are so unable to leave room in the calendar for matches to be meaningful and also accessible to the players who wish to play in them, the supporters who wish to watch, and the broadcasters and sponsors who wish to bankroll, then the flow-on consequences will be a damaging loss of interest by all concerned.

Fans of the game must decide where to spend their money, and how much attention to pay to matches and series packed in so tightly as to leave everyone feeling exhausted at times of the year when they should be anticipating the onset of a fresh home summer. Right now it is far too easy to look cynically upon the whole, which does anything but "put fans first".

The Australian Cricketers Association, of late an organisation in a state of flux having lost several key contributors in recent years, has found decent voice this week. Simon Katich and the chief executive, Alistair Nicholson, have both spoken sharply on the problem of a distended schedule that has, in the latter's words, "changed what it means to represent Australia". At the suggestion this week that Australia may need more selectors to be able to get to all the many matches going on concurrently, one player relayed sentiments to the effect that if you didn't laugh, you'd cry.

Sutherland, for his part, chose to point out publicly that players might be better off skipping the IPL to cope with the demands of the rest of the year despite the fact that both Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, those two South Africa absentees, do exactly that. Michael Clarke once found himself in trouble with Australian team-mates for making a similar observation during a tour of India.

Another shorthand view of history is that the IPL itself does not come into existence without India's unexpected victory at the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007. In reality, the tournament was already well and truly in the works, and was actually launched after the World T20 began but before MS Dhoni lifted the trophy.

Likewise, the job of creating a schedule that affords room to breathe and understanding of why matches are being played is already well underway at the ICC level. This week's revelation of a conference-style structure for Tests, in addition to leagues for ODIs and T20s, is evidence that the game's governors are thinking about the problem and trying to work their way towards a better landscape.

But the announcement of a Test match taking place in India little more than 12 hours after a T20 has ended in Australia is the sort of crystallising moment that will ensure those talks carry on with a sense of urgency. They must lead somewhere fruitful before everyone - players, supporters, and those ever so vital "commercial partners" - runs completely out of patience.