Greg Chappell fears for Test cricket's future
Greg Chappell has delivered a blunt message to cricket's administrators: Test cricket is under threat from Twenty20 and something must be done to save the traditional form of the game. Chappell believes the situation is so severe that there could come a time when only four or five nations play Test cricket, with the weaker countries focusing purely on 20- and 50-over games.
The former Australia captain and India coach was in Melbourne on Thursday to deliver the annual Bradman Oration on the state of the game and he painted a worrying picture for the five-day format. He said while iconic tours like the Ashes retained their importance, many other series had lost relevance and administrators should focus on the quality of cricket played, rather than the quantity.
"I'm of the belief that we can support the three formats but obviously we have to give a very long and hard think about how best they work together," Chappell said. "I have a belief that we need to make each series, whether it's 20-, 50-over or a Test match series, a lot more relevant.
"I think the format that is under most pressure with 20-over cricket coming in is Test cricket. It has been struggling for some time. Economically, some countries find it very difficult to be competitive and therefore it affects economically the viability of Test series between some countries.
"I have a feeling that Test cricket is going to reduce in size rather than grow in size. I can see the time when perhaps there will only be four or five major countries playing Test match cricket. It's another reason why I think 50-over cricket needs to be supported and given a rethink because 50-over cricket could well become the Test cricket of the future for a lot of cricket playing countries.
"There are only probably four or five countries that have the critical mass and have the infrastructure that will allow them to produce competitive Test match teams on a regular basis. That is a problem. That's been exacerbated by the success of 20-over cricket."
The prospect of separate divisions in Test cricket, which might help ensure matches are closely fought, was not an idea that sat well with Chappell. However, he believed that the introduction of day-night Tests, which appears to be a certainty when a suitable ball is developed, could help regenerate interest in the five-day format.
"If you want people to come, then obviously you have to fit into their lives, not hope that they will fit into the life of cricket," Chappell said. "I have no doubt that in the not too distant future we will see Test cricket played under lights and played at night time when it's easier for people to come."
Chappell's comments have come at a time when the ICC is considering ways to keep the public interested in Test cricket. An MCC survey recently found that only 7% of cricket followers in India regarded Test cricket as their preferred form of the game, while ticket sales for Australia's SCG and MCG Tests against Pakistan this summer are 20% down on the Tests at the same venue last season.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo