Test cricket must always be protected
The debate has been going on for a while now. There have been many questions of T20 and its influence on our game overall and what to do with Test cricket.
In the recent Time Out chat with Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar, I shared an idea about how to market Test cricket better, with an annual Test Championship and day-night Tests. I believe wholeheartedly in these two opportunities.
I also mentioned the need for the ICC to consolidate with the two most favoured forms today, T20 and Test cricket. I say favoured as it is clear in the last two years that crowd numbers are greater at T20 internationals than they are in ODIs. The fact that most countries are dropping domestic 50-over cricket and are playing or suggesting 40-over matches , or split-innings formats, is indicative that domestic 50-over cricket is dead.
Will this lack of support for domestic 50-over cricket finally transfer to the international arena? It's conceivable, simply due to the time factor of watching for seven hours being difficult to fit in.
However, I will always support a simple ODI over a 40-over split-innings experiment. It is true that the longer the game the better the quality of the game that is played and enjoyed. But Tests already provide that platform for quality, despite the fact that they aren't supported in crowd numbers for obvious reasons. Test cricket is unique - it is not consistently entertaining as such, but it is hugely satisfying to follow when a contest is in hand. Test cricket must always be protected as the pinnacle of our game.
My observation isn't to drop ODIs now. In time there will be a continuing natural evolution of this format and the fans will ultimately decide by its attendance. But history tells us that if ODIs started at 60 overs in the 1975 World Cup, moved to 55 in 1983, then 50 in 1987, and now we are talking of the possibility of it being 40 and with two-split innings, then the pattern is clearly emerging. On that trend alone, the game will soon catch up to what we already have - T20.
My prediction is that the 2015 World Cup will be the last 50-over format for that event. After 2015, I see the format going to T20. In the meantime, member countries should look to balance out the three formats and give each a chance and see what the market will ultimately choose.
Three years ago I proposed to the ICC, MCC and New Zealand Cricket the idea that each tour should comprise of the 'Triple Treble'. Three T20s, three ODIs and three Tests, in every case with the exception of the Ashes. This way all three forms could survive. But since that time ODIs have continued to dominate the schedule and this is simply overkill and the main reason why T20 has literally taken off. At present there is an unhealthy imbalance. This is why the debate rages on. Yet through all this Test cricket is ignored and is therefore not marketable.
What do we want in the year 2020?
An annual Test Championship, a bi-annual T20 World Cup?
That's my gut feeling…
This is a summary of Martin Crowe's views, as expressed to Cricinfo