In an article on cricinfo, James Sutherland of Cricket Australia suggests setting up a specialist Twenty20 team. I've seen some pro and some con arguments,
Sutherland draws parallels to rugby, where this works very well. And this is a very good comparison. What cricket and rugby essentially have in common is that you need a great diversity of skill in the different positions on the field and down the order. 7s rugby and Twenty20 are comparable in that you lose a dimension of the game. The rules are essentially the same, but the tactics are very different, so there is less diversity required in your player set up. (For those of you who don't know rugby: 7s rugby is played with 7 players, 15s is played with 15. In 15s you have 8 forwards (big, strong, not necesarily fast and agile) and 7 backs (fast, fast, agile, strong). In 7s, everyone is essentially a back in open play.)
Here is what 7s has done for rugby:
-The 7s team is typically a bit younger that the 15s team, since speed is so vital. Many of these play for 15s teams at club level, and many make the transition to the 15s team.
-The young players get a chance to play international rugby, before they are ready to make the 15s team
- Smaller nations can compete much closer with the more established nations. (In fact, Fiji is a world power in 7s rugby, but not quite there yet in 15s)
- There is a smaller threshold to playing, so more countries are getting involved
As for the argument about Twenty20 players forgoing their test careers: a typical age for a test debut is mid- to late twenties for a batsman. If they've spent a few years facing international bowlers on pitches all over the world before they were good enough to be selected for the test team, I don't see how that is a problem (as long as they still play first class cricket on a national level).
So I say bring it on! As a bonus, if you get a separate Twenty20 team they can trott around the world playing tournaments without disrupting the test circuit, and we can go back to 4 and 5 match test-series.