With T20 cricket being popular, is Test cricket slowly fading?

May 14, 2018, 08:40 IST | Ian Chappell

In an age where Twenty20 leagues are just flooding the market, Test cricket needs all the nurturing on offer from the officials if it is to survive this influx

Australia and New Zealand compete in the inaugural day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval in 2015. Pic/AFP
Australia and New Zealand compete in the inaugural day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval in 2015. Pic/AFP

You often hear cricket officials say; "We believe in the primacy of Test cricket." The question is whether cricket fans believe that occasionally expressed sentiment. It is mighty hard for fans to become believers when within the same week, the BCCI refuses to play a day/night Test at the Adelaide Oval and the Australian Board cancels a proposed home series against Bangladesh.

The BCCI's decision was extremely disappointing, as Adelaide has become the unofficial home of day-night Test cricket. Three years of rip-roaring success under lights at Adelaide Oval was expected to be further enhanced by the presence of a strong Indian team. However, the Indian Board's refusal to participate further strengthens the opinion of former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, who argued: "Always back self-interest because you know it's a goer."

Hard to accept
No matter what excuse the BCCI offers, it's hard to accept that this decision was anything other than looking to increase India's chances of winning a first ever Test series in Australia against a weakened opponent. Nowhere can I find even a hint of it being in "the best interests of the game." Just like coloured citizens in parts of Southern America in the early fifties, "the best interests of the game" has taken a back seat on the bus.

In an age where T20 leagues are flooding the market, Test cricket needs all the nurturing on offer from the officials if it is to survive this influx. day-night Test cricket in centres where it's viable is a must if the long form is to have a future in a market which is becoming ever more competitive and where the officials are constantly looking for ways to compress the game.

Apart from the obvious advantage of the matches being played at a more appropriate time for fans to either attend or watch on television, day-night Tests also conjure up intriguing cricketing possibilities. Because of an often dramatic change in conditions, different strategies are likely to evolve for day/night Tests, particularly in relation to selection and batting orders. day-night Tests also provide greater opportunities for bowlers and cricket is a better game when the leather flingers are on an equal footing with the batsmen. And importantly, day-night Tests provide a challenge to a captain's imagination and anything that achieves that aim is good for cricket.

Well done, Adelaide
Day-night Tests also provide for the future possibility of four day games, which could have more appeal among fans and media outlets. Adelaide has been the leading light in the push to give day/night Tests credibility and a match involving India would have done much to enhance that reputation. The BCCI's decision is short-sighted at best and chock full of self-interest at worst.

As cricket flounders like a man in a thick fog, trying to envisage a viable path forward, the debate often turns to the merit of separate teams for long and short forms of the game. Maybe it's time to consider whether there should be separate administrative committees handling the long and short forms of the game.

What is needed and has been for a long time, is an independent body to administer the game on a global basis. It's no longer acceptable to have individual Boards, driven by self-interest, decide when and where matches will be played. The playing schedule has been overloaded and unworkable for many years and that won't change while the current system is in place.

However, the administrators aren't about to vote themselves out of power and while the leading players are financially comfortable, they're not going to start a revolution in search of a better system. That leaves the fans and the media organisations to agitate for meaningful change. Those two disparate bodies might just be sufficiently aroused to rise up together if cricket Boards keep making decisions that bear absolutely no relationship to the best interests of the game.

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