Strauss’ Test Cricket Concerns Must Be Heeded

This post was originally published on All Out Cricket on 20th October 2011.

In the wake of a possible postponement to the World Test Championship, All Out Cricket columnist David Green says the ICC must be prepared to do more to preserve the sanctity of Test cricket.

“I am very much aware that if we are arrogant and assume that Test cricket will always be there, we are sowing the seeds of our downfall.” So said Andrew Strauss in Tuesday’s edition of The Times, against a background of falling attendances in most countries outside England and the likelihood that the ICC’s much-vaunted World Test Championship, due to start in 2013, will be postponed for four years to squeeze in that Millwall of cricket tournaments (“no-one likes us, but we don’t care”) the Champions Trophy.

The reasons for the likely postponement are, to be frank, farcical. The ICC provided detailed plans of the World Test Championship to much fanfare only a few months ago, with two semi-finals and a final tentatively scheduled for England in 2013. Unfortunately, it transpires that they hadn’t reached a formal agreement with contracted broadcaster ESPN Star Sports, who it appears see more mileage and revenue in the Champions Trophy– a tournament that is widely derided by players, commentators and supporters alike, and which is entirely unnecessary given that we already have a 50-over World Cup every four years.

Whilst yet another u-turn by the ICC is perhaps no real surprise, the recent announcement of England’s summer schedule in 2012 is another punch in the stomach to those that believe Test cricket is the ultimate form of the game and should thus receive primacy. England are scheduled to host West Indies for three Tests, three one-day internationals and a Twenty20 before Australia arrive for a five-match one-day series prior to three Tests, five one-dayers and three Twenty20 games against South Africa. That’s 13 one-day internationals. Yes, THIRTEEN.

Quite why Australia are coming over for a one-day series just 12 months before they return to English shores for an Ashes series and seven (groan!) one-day internationals beggars belief. The consequence is that the Test series between England and South Africa – the current top two ranked sides in the world – will only be played over three matches.

This is even more ridiculous given that it wasn’t that long ago we were being told that England v South Africa encounters had been given prestige status and would therefore be played over five Tests. Surely a five-match series would be far more likely to capture the public’s imagination than a measly three-match rubber?

Whilst it is clear that a compromise has to be struck between the number of higher revenue generating limited-overs internationals and the most traditional and skilful form of the game (it’s not called Test cricket for nothing), it would seem that the schedule next summer has seen the balance going sadly askew. If the administrators aren’t careful then even the most ardent one-day cricket fan will get sick of an endless diet of matches and when that happens, it will hit them and their chosen broadcasters in the pocket. If Test cricket continues to be neglected and marginalised as a result, it would seem to be a double recipe for disaster.

We end as we started with the England captain’s viewpoint on what admittedly is a difficult balancing act for the likes of the ICC and ECB: “The administrators are trying to recognise the primacy of Test cricket, but there is a difference between saying it and making sure your actions follow. We all know that Twenty 20 and one-day cricket are more lucrative and something has to give. I’d just argue let’s make sure it’s not always Test cricket that makes way.”

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