ECB committed to Test Championship
The ECB remains fully committed to ensuring the Test Championship comes to fruition after initial hopes of staging an inaugural event in England during 2013 were scuppered by the ICC's current broadcast deal.
Earlier this month Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, confirmed that a Test Championship won't take place until at least 2017 due to the commitment in the current TV rights package with ESPN STAR Sports for a Champions Trophy tournament in the 2013 season.
"We are building towards the Test Championship in 2017," David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said. "I'm very confident it will form part of the calendar in that year.
"It is common knowledge that we were the main advocates for the Test Championship and we still believe that very strongly," he added. "We recognise the challenges when you already have contracts in place for the 2013 season but remain fervent in our support for the Test Championship and we'll be pushing very hard to make sure in happens in the future.
"I don't think the interest in Test cricket has ever been higher in this country. I realise there are challenges elsewhere in the world but in this country it is still the true test of a cricketer."
England are one of the few Test nations where the game is healthy both on the field and in the stands and Collier's remarks came on the day that the ECB announced a 10-year title sponsorship for the Test game with Investec. Andrew Strauss, the England Test captain, has previously voiced his concerns about the future of the five-day game and again warned that it would be dangerous for the English game to become complacent because crowds remain strong on home soil.
The recent series between South Africa and Australia produced thrilling cricket but was never played in front of a full stadium over the two Tests, while the current contests between India and West Indies have been greeted by poor attendances - although the Sachin Tendulkar effect is having an impact in Mumbai.
"I'd hate to think that anyone is arrogant enough to assume that it will always be around. I don't think that is the case," Strauss said. "I'm buoyed by what great support there is for the game in this country but I'm quite aware that in other parts of the world it is less so. We are in a fortunate position here, but administrators all around the world need to keep working on the product.
"It's important to market the game as well as possible. In a lot of ways in the past we've just relied on Test cricket always being around. Now we've got to knock our heads together and work out what the best way is to get people watching Test cricket. There's a fairly strong argument saying that using one-day and T20 cricket to feed through can work. But I also think that added context to Test cricket is important, not just through bilateral series but playing for something greater whether it be the World Test Championship or something similar."
Administrators are also coming under pressure to back up their talk of defending Test cricket with actions. The delay to the Test Championship, the two-match series between South Africa and Australia and next year's three-match contest involving England and South Africa are cited as examples to show administrators aren't serious
However, Collier insisted there is a balancing act to strike so that the ten Test nations all remain viable rather than it becoming a game for a few elite teams. "If you always played five Test series you'd end up not playing some countries at all and ending up with three or four Test nations wouldn't be good for cricket as a whole. It's good that we are able to protect a number of nations.
"If we play five Tests against one side [in a summer] we play two against the other," he added. "We aren't playing Zimbabwe or Bangladesh at home in this FTP cycle, they are just away series, so it means the two-Test series will be against the likes of New Zealand and Sri Lanka. It's very important when we got back there, for example to New Zealand, that they have three Test matches so we have to help those countries as well."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo