Test cricket under scrutiny

2009-09-01 13:40
Sport24 columnist Arthur Turner (File)
Arthur Turner

Since my last column in June, the International Cricket Council has formed a committee headed by Dave Richardson (the ICC Cricket Manger) to have a look at Test cricket in its current form. The committee’s brief is to explore ways and means to improve the marketability and interest in Test cricket.

Richardson said that the two main areas that they would be looking at are the possibility of reducing Test cricket to four days and the playing of day/night Test matches.

If the ICC believes these changes are the solution to Test cricket’s sustainability then their thinking is far off the mark. Changing the culture and structure of the game is not the answer to ensure the future of Test cricket; in fact it will damage it.

The biggest threat to Test cricket is drawn matches, especially, those that have no chance of achieving a result. By reducing Test cricket to four days they will not only be increasing the percentage of drawn matches, but also creating Test matches that have no chance of producing a result.

Drawn Test matches played over five days like the first Ashes Test in Cardiff are not always detrimental to Test cricket. There was every chance of a result on the last day in Cardiff as England fought for survival. This hard-earned draw eventually played a pivotal role in England regaining the Ashes. It was an enthralling Test match, watched by 82 000 people, including a sell-out crowd on the fifth and final day.

In modern day Test cricket there are not many matches that are drawn because the pace of the game is very different to Test cricket in years gone by.

Massive practical problems

The second point of wanting to play day/night Test matches not only changes the culture of Test cricket, but also has massive practical problems. In the 1990s Australia tried to play Sheffield Shield matches at night and it made no difference to the crowd numbers.

Also, the ball creates a problem. Do you use a red or white ball or is the ball changed for the night session? The red ball does not work under lights and the manufacturers have struggled to produce a white ball that lasts 50 overs, never mind the 80-over minimum that Test cricket demands.

The ICC needs to look no further than the recent two Test series' played in England and the West Indies to find the solution to their dilemma.

The Ashes series played in England was once again a great advert for Test cricket. The series was well supported at the grounds, enjoyed a big television audience, extensive media coverage and gripped not only the two nations, but the whole cricketing world.

The series played in the West Indies, between a second string West Indies team and Bangladesh, was the worst possible advert for Test cricket. Nobody watched or cared about the series or its result because the standard was so poor.

The answer lies in the ICC restoring the integrity of Test cricket by restricting the five day game to the top eight nations in the world. Even then they currently have a problem with the West Indies and New Zealand struggling in their recent performances, and marketability remains a problem for Test cricket.

However, these two nations, especially the West Indies, have been successful Test teams in the past. The ICC needs to assist them in once again becoming a force in Test cricket instead of growing the Test game in areas that are unsustainable and undermine the integrity of the five day game.

Arthur is a former cricket administrator and current player agent.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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