The Test Match is a cricket purist’s dream, an exhibition of the world’s best players competing against one another for their nations at some of the most breathtakingly beautiful stadiums on the planet. Nonetheless, trouble lies ahead.
The one-day game has caught the imagination of the younger generations who are more interested in witnessing a flurry of runs and wickets, crammed into a twenty, forty or fifty over match than an exhibition staged over more than three-hundred overs of cricket.
You could easily compare the Twenty20 form of cricket to a games console. It’s new, it’s exciting and there is a huge amount of money involved in its expansion.
Then you have Test Cricket, the forgotten board game of its generation. Shunted to the back of the attic, saved for special occasions like The Ashes, for instance. It is traditional and often a game of tactical manoeuvre, outwitting the opposition over a long period of time using skill and determination but this could soon be forgotten.
Crowds for One-Day International (ODI) games have been astonishing in the past few years, both domestically and internationally. ODIs in England, India, West Indies and Australia sell-out at the speed of light and the atmosphere generated by these massive crowds is mind blowing.
Compare this to recent Tests where it has taken a huge event, like The Ashes, to bolster crowds and fill out grounds across the globe. When you look as recently as the Indian tour of the West Indies, it is clear to see the huge difference between the crowd size s at the Test series and those at the ODI showdowns.
So, what is the common factor and why has the Test scene continued on a downward spiral? There is a whole list of possible reasons why, but the main factors are price and entertainment. It’s a simple as that.
In this day and age waiting is not what people consider to be desirable. They want fast food, fast cars and obviously now, fast cricket. Yes, scoring in Test Matches has sped up but, compared to One-Day cricket, it’s still at a snail’s pace.
Big sixes and fast run-rates are the order of the day and One-Day cricket gives you that, as well as a guaranteed result on the day you decide to buy a ticket and attend the game.
It seems that more and more cricket fans would rather watch Kevin Pietersen smash thirty off ten balls, than see Andrew Strauss score a skilled hundred off two-hundred and fifty deliveries. Here lies your problem.
Coupled with this is the rising price of Test Match tickets. On a quick scour of the internet I found that a ticket to watch England v India on Day Four of the Edgbaston Test would set me back at least £50.
Some would say that it is a reasonable price to pay for a full day of cricket, but when you compare this to the prices of a Test Match ticket a few years back, when it was the pinnacle of International cricket, there is a huge difference.
Times have changed, understandably, but in the financial state of today’s society, the cheaper something is, the more demand there will be for it. The ICC should take note of this.
It doesn’t help the situation that even players have jumped on the Twenty20 bandwagon, where it seems that they are putting the likes of the IPL over duty for their countries.
Players are retiring earlier and going on to compete more regularly in shorter overs games, and the recent retirement of Lasith Malinga from Test Cricket only strengthens this point.
If the players are losing faith in the game, why should fans stand firm and support Test Cricket?
There are many admirers of the longer version of cricket but maybe there is now a necessity to re-invent itself to coincide with the changing times.
Any Test Match staged at the likes of Lords or the MCG is an incredible spectacle and it would be a disastrous shame if these occasions became rarer due to a lack of interest, but something in me believes that there is life in the old dog yet.