Test cricket is not dying — the five day game still has a unique place in world sport

Is Test cricket dying? (Spoiler: No.)

But before I explain, here’s a couple of short videos to watch. Firstly, Moeen Ali’s hat-trick ball to seal England’s Test victory over South Africa at The Oval on July 31:

Second, eighteen year-old Rashid Khan taking the first ever hat-trick of the Twenty20 Caribbean Premier League at Brian Lara Stadium, Trinidad on September 6:

Which game had the bigger crowd and the better atmosphere, and which hat-trick do you think will be remembered in twenty years’ time, or even next year?

Test cricket is not dying, but in many ways it has failed to grow at the same rate as the sport’s newer versions, the one-day game and Twenty20. The Ashes, starting in Australia in November, are close to selling out, and most England Test tours are a major event for the Barmy Army.

Christmas and New Year Tests in Australia, regardless of the opponent, attract big crowds and massive TV ratings.

Day-night Test matches are increasingly becoming part of the mix. The first two at Adelaide in the past two years have attracted large crowds and healthy television audiences. England’s first day-night Test – against West Indies at Edgbaston in August – has also been seen as a success, despite the visitors losing two days early.

While the boards will continue to pursue the commercial imperatives of day-night Tests, there are still bugs to be sorted out, the biggest being that the players simply don’t like playing with a pink cricket ball in changing light conditions.

We are yet to see how the popularity of “pink ball” Tests withstands either a dull fifth-day draw or the frustrations of constant rain interruptions. Not once, in the four day-night Tests played in Australia and England to date, has a match extended into a Monday evening.

The biggest threats to the viability of Test cricket have arisen with the exponential growth in the number of matches played in the past three decades, in which period the number of Test teams has grown from seven to ten (and soon to twelve).

Traditional encounters like the Ashes or India’s home Tests remain popular, and indeed have grown in popularity with the extended reach of live television and the internet.

Other series have failed to deliver the same growth. It’s difficult to argue, for example, that the rivalry between South Africa and Bangladesh (who have just completed a lop-sided two match series) is dying off when it never existed in the first place.

But there needs to be a reason for being if Test cricket is to be more than just the cash cow of a handful of nations.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) board is meeting in New Zealand later this week and is set to approve a World Test Championship structure that would involve the nine leading Test teams playing each other in a two-year cycle beginning in 2019 with the top two meeting in a Final at Lord’s in 2021.

Exactly how this would function in the instance of India’s fixture with Pakistan is not clear, but it otherwise guarantees each team a minimum number of Tests, with competition points up for grabs in each series.

This would mean, for example, that Bangladesh would have split competition points with Australia in their recent 1-1 Test series, but would have taken none from their 0-2 loss to South Africa last week. Every Test would have some degree of broader context.

Test cricket deserves to survive, and will, alongside Twenty20 just as the marathon is as much a part of the athletics calendar as the 100 metres sprint. It will never be the major money-earner of the game, that is the role of Twenty20 these days.

But the advent of a functional world Test league, together with some smart scheduling including the occasional day-nighter, will reinforce the five-day game’s unique place in world sport.

(This article was first published on October 9 2017 by iSportconnect).

Success of Australian cricket’s MoU set to depend on negotiation of fresh broadcast and sponsorship deals

The dispute between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) has been settled, five weeks after deadline, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the next five years has been struck.

More at iSportconnect

The birth of a women’s IPL should not be too far away – if the BCCI has enough willpower

The 11th Women’s Cricket World Cup, the third run by the ICC, was without doubt the most successful ever. The final was one of the most thrilling of any Cricket World Cup, female or male. Continue reading “The birth of a women’s IPL should not be too far away – if the BCCI has enough willpower”

Why the ICC’s revenue sharing model could harm growth of new members

It has taken 108 years for cricket’s world governing body, the ICC, to grow to the point that it has but a dozen full members. That landmark was achieved on June 22 when the ICC Board approved the promotion of Afghanistan and Ireland to full membership status. But what does full membership mean for Ireland and Afghanistan?

My latest column for iSportconnect:

Why the ICC’s revenue sharing model could harm growth of new members

Review of a Second Year of the Big Bash League

A year ago, I gave my impressions for iSportconnect of the first year of Australian cricket’s franchise-based Twenty20 competition the Big Bash League. With the second season completed, won by the Brisbane Heat, I felt it time to revisit the tournament’s progress. Continue reading “Review of a Second Year of the Big Bash League”

Will Channel Nine lose its hold on Australian cricket?

For a third of a century, Australia’s Channel Nine has been, to use its long-running advertising slogan, Still The One for telecasting international cricket. This may be soon to come to an end. Continue reading “Will Channel Nine lose its hold on Australian cricket?”

Cricket in the Olympics – But when?

It has been 112 years – two years longer than an Allen Stanford prison sentence – since two club sides from Great Britain and France played what, to date, has been the one and only game of cricket at the Olympic Games. We may not have to wait so long again for the sport to return to the modern Games, but there will be many hurdles to overcome first. Continue reading “Cricket in the Olympics – But when?”

Cricket’s broadcast rights: Locking in the future or locking out the future?

This week, Japan defeated Papua New Guinea by eight wickets in Vanuatu in the final of the 2012 Pepsi ICC East Asia-Pacific Women’s Championship. Now while that result may not be of any pressing interest to you, what is significant is that this and tournaments like it, are taking place all over the world. Continue reading “Cricket’s broadcast rights: Locking in the future or locking out the future?”

The Big Bash, And Juggling Cricket’s Three Formats

What started as a midsummer diversion in the English cricket season of 2003 became a multi-million dollar enterprise in India in 2008, and now almost every Test playing nation has its own professional Twenty20 competition, squeezed into their domestic program.

The 2011-12 season saw the transformation of Australia’s state-based “Big Bash” competition into the franchise-based Big Bash League. Continue reading “The Big Bash, And Juggling Cricket’s Three Formats”

Who’s Next For The ICC After Lorgat

On 30 June 2012 Haroon Lorgat will step down as the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) third Chief Executive Officer, having decided not to take up the option of extending his four-year contract. Continue reading “Who’s Next For The ICC After Lorgat”