A hundred years ago there were only three teams who played Test cricket.
If the current Big Three nations and the ICC continue to ignore the plight of the other countries, history could repeat sooner than we think.
Well, not quite.
The other nations are unlikely to pull the pin from the red-ball format altogether but they’ll be little more than window dressing in the background as the Ashes and Border-Gavaskar Trophy series hog the limelight.
More needs to be done to promote the other nine Test playing nations to incentivise them to continue to be just that.
Pakistan and the West Indies are touring Australia this summer and it’s testament to Test cricket’s enduring appeal in this country that there will still be a decent level of interest in the on-field action.
The touring teams can’t be relied upon to create much to engage the fan base.
Pakistan are down four of their frontline bowlers and are unlikely to end their winless drought in Australia which stretches back to 1995.
They’ve lost 14 straight Down Under since then – they were swept when they had Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram spearheading their attack so it’s highly unlikely Shaheen Shah Afridi is going to be able to bring the Aussies down virtually single-handedly.
The Windies last tasted victory on these shores on the back of the star trio of Brian Lara hitting a hundred and Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose taking five-wicket hauls in Perth in 1997.
Since then they’ve had two draws and 14 losses, including last summer’s 2-0 cakewalk to Australia.
There’s only so much nostalgia a cricket fan can take – get ready to be bombarded with plenty of vision of Viv Richards, Wasim, Waqar, Curtly and co this summer as the broadcasters try to remind viewers that these teams used to strike fear into the hearts of Australian players and fans.
The accusation has been levelled at India that they don’t love cricket but they love Indian cricket.
In Australia, the same theory rings true.
The 12th Man was right when Richie “rapped” back in 1991 during his Marvellous chart-topper that no one gave “a stuff if Big Merv’s a little fatter just as long as we’re thrashing those Pakis or Poms, or Sri Lanka or the Windies, it doesn’t matter where they’re from – it might be India, South Africa, Zimbabwe or New Zealand.”
Since the heart-breaking one-run defeat in Adelaide two years later which led to Australia losing the Frank Worrell Trophy to the West Indies, they have hosted 51 series.
Only six have ended in defeat – three to South Africa in 2008-09, ‘12-13 and ‘16-17, India in 2018-19 and ‘20-21, and England’s 2010-11 anomaly.
Cricket Australia has worked on a four-yearly financial cycle for decades – it used to be that the two home summers with England and the West Indies were the money-spinners and they budgeted for lean years in between when the other countries toured.
Nowadays, India have long since replaced the Windies while the Ashes rivalry burns as bright as ever even though England have not managed a win on tour since their historic 3-1 triumph in 2010-11.
It’s hard to sell a lemon and it’s probably fiscally sound for CA not to invest too many dollars into promoting Pakistan or the Windies this summer when they are unlikely to bring too many fans through the turnstiles apart from diehard expats.
But they can’t give up the ghost on the other nations entirely.
However, CA has made a step in the right direction by bumping up their 2026-27 home series against New Zealand from a three to a four-Test contest.
The Black Caps are world cricket’s eternally underestimated distant cousins.
Australia could and should have a rivalry with the Kiwis – there was a big song and dance made when the Chappell-Hadlee series was launched a couple of decades ago but what was supposed to be an annual contest quickly fizzled out.
Granted, the Kiwis have struggled to post victories on Australian soil but their 2011 Hobart boilover was at least more recent than England, Pakistan or West Indies’ last victories on these shores. And they did win the World Test Championship just a couple of years ago.
CA’s bean-counters can’t contrive a system where they only host Tests against India and England on a biennial basis.
As part of the current Future Tours Programme, Australia are due to host Bangladesh in 2026 for the first two Tests in the country since 2003.
They look like they will be played in the tropics in the late winter months but at least CA is finally giving one of Test cricket’s lower-profile nations a look-in.
It is easy to criticise Bangladesh in the wake of their mediocre performances at the recent World Cup but it can be hard for a developing cricketing nation to challenge the big dogs if they rarely get the chance to compete against them.
If the ICC truly cares about Test cricket, it needs to do much more than just institute a World Championship final every couple of years which will probably be dominated by the major nations.
Financial subsidies need to be offered to the poorer nations to ensure they aren’t losing money purely when they host Test matches.
Otherwise, T20s will continue to take over the already crowded schedule and Test cricket will keep dying a death by a thousand cuts.