The survival of the longer version of the game is critical for the future of cricket. This should be the biggest worry confronting the administrators, the bigger challenge — how to attract more spectators to Tests.
VVS Laxman delivers the MAK Pataudi Lecture in Kolkata yesterday. Pic/BCCI/Sportzpics
There have been several suggestions to promote day-night Test matches — I am not too sure if this variety would find favour with the spectators. It is, however, imperative that ways are found to sustain interest in Test cricket.
The simplistic explanation given for the lack of interest in Test cricket is the proliferation of franchise-based domestic Twenty20 leagues across the world.
But like I said, the explanation is too simple, just like the theory that increasingly, younger players are content with playing only Twenty20 cricket and do not care enough about Test cricket.
In my capacity as a mentor for Sunrisers Hyderabad, I have interacted with young talent not only from India but from around the world and I state with confidence and optimism that, to a majority of these players, Test cricket remains the ultimate priority, their most sought after badge of honour.
A Sheffield Shield match between Western Australia and Queensland in progress at the WACA, Perth on Monday. Pic/Getty Images
Admittedly, the Twenty20 format has opened up the cricket economy for a larger number of players and offers a whole new avenue for the paying spectator.
The spectator is guaranteed entertainment and a result in three, action-packed hours. Like going to a movie. T20 has also attracted more women as well as younger people who were being drawn away from Test cricket.
Balance it out
We have to find a way to get both formats to work. Day-night Test cricket is being suggested, and while we are not sure whether it can meet technical requirements, it might draw newer audiences for its sheer novelty value.
People could dash to a ground after a day's work and unwind for a few hours. Who knows, gradually their interest in Test cricket might be reignited, they might start coming to the grounds more regularly.
So maybe day-night cricket is worth a shot, no doubt, especially when the shot doesn't compromise the inherent core fabric of the longer version.
Test matches during the day should remain the norm, but occasionally, five days of Test cricket under lights, especially in places of extreme heat and where dew is not a massive factor, will add an exciting dimension to the game.
I am anguished, — and I use the word anguish in all seriousness — when I see needless aggression in the name of competition, foul language and ugly demonstrations on the field in the name of "making your point" or "giving it back" or "playing hard but fair". Youngsters and children watching on television can easily lip-read and understand the choicest swear words being used on the field. We should remember that as cricketers, we are role models and can easily influence the younger generation. Therefore it's our duty to influence them in the most positive way.