When only a few thousand spectators witness a less-than-a-run-a-ball Test century from David Warner, questions need to be asked about the state of Test cricket. That came only a few days after a packed MCG saw an exciting game between the Renegades and the Stars in the Big Bash.
TV audiences aside, we want people to be at the games, to experience the game and to build lasting memories of watching and enjoying the spectacle of cricket. It also helps create an atmosphere that no doubt the people at home enjoy seeing.
However, this has been on a decline for a long time now. A lot has been spoken about the impact T20 has had on Test cricket, and a lot of the rhetoric has been spot on. Attendances, lack of competition and kids parading Big Bash hats instead of baggy green replicas, suggests there needs to be a change. Test cricket cannot rely on series played between India, England and Australia to continually prop up this form of the game.
Day-night Tests are a step in the right direction. It certainly suggests the people in power are thinking and trying to look outside of tradition to help engage a new audience, while keeping on the good side of the traditionalists.
Four-day Tests is the new buzz term and perhaps it has merit. Forcing teams to create a result with one less day might encourage more attacking tactics with bat and ball. In a society that expects things to occur right now, this is potentially a step in the right direction.
Perhaps one direction Test cricket can move into is a tiered World Cup.
At the moment, when two countries meet up for a Test series, they are ‘fighting’ for a ‘coveted’ memorial trophy such as The Ashes or Border-Gavaskar, which no doubt is an honour to those who are recognised, but perhaps there needs to be a bigger incentive.
Yes, there is the Test championship, but ask most cricket fans what the leader board is and how the points are allocated, and you’ll quickly see that something needs to be done.
There are currently ten Test-playing nations. Let’s look at splitting these up into two pools. This Test World Cup could be played across two years, with every game, every day’s play and every ball bowled counting towards the cup.
There would be no dead rubbers, adding spice to otherwise dull series. A leaderboard could be determined by wins, losses and draws, but a net run rate could also be included to further encourage attacking cricket.
With two tiers, this also opens the door for promotion and relegation. Akin to the English Premier League, the top team wins the cup, and the bottom teams gets relegated. Not only does this reward the best country with the trophy and prestige, it also results in the relegated countries needing to find answers on how they can get back into the prized ‘first division’.
Deciding which division each country begins in would come from the current Test standings which would mean these are the current divisions (as 7 January 2016):
There are certainly draw backs. If a team is placed in Pool B like Bangladesh, they may not play against India/Australia for over four years, which certainly decreases potential revenue that is raised through these visiting teams.
It also doesn’t allow these teams to pit themselves against the best teams in the world – hence preventing progression. However, most of the countries that would be started in division two wouldn’t normally get a Test series against the top sides, and it would certainly provide encouragement for that board of control to improve its administration, junior pathways and resources to give them the best chance of moving into division one.
The format of this Test World Cup is no doubt a logistical challenge. However, being spread over two years allows a home-and-away fixture of three Tests. If for example Australia is playing England at home, there can still be the Ashes to play for, however, in each game the points are then added to the overall Test leader board. Spoken about, discussed, dissected and certainly tweeted about.
Giving Test cricket a purpose will provide something for the audience to be engaged. At the moment, the audience is interested in the first day’s play and perhaps interested in a big Test series – look at the crowd during each Ashes contest – however, if the game isn’t entertaining or a close contest, they will switch off to other alternatives.
We love a winner and we love to support the winner. At the moment, it’s difficult for supporters, and in particular, children, to ‘support’ Australia. This is a potential way to create a discussion point, to build excitement and provide context and meaning to each day of a Test match.
The decision by the ECB to abandon their tour of Pakistan this week, on top of India’s decision to abandon the fifth Test of their series against India two weeks ago, along with New Zealand’s decision to abandon their tour of Pakistan last week has left the cricket world in a state of flux.