July 31, 2009

Why Test cricket must get more elitist

The game is going through perhaps the most volatile phase in its history, but the Future Tours Programme has the potential to make a difference
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So just where is cricket headed? I wish I knew. I wish I knew someone who knew. If you are a lover of Test cricket, the signs from the last fortnight are terrifying.

Andrew Flintoff has chosen the shorter forms of the game over Tests. Kevin Pietersen has said Test cricket could be dead in 10 years. And Gary Kirsten expressed similar fears, if not in the same words. Committing to playing for their country for the next year at the cost of their participation in the IPL wasn't a simple decision for New Zealand's cricketers, and Daniel Vettori has hinted that the decision could well go the other way next time. As far as West Indies goes, honestly no one will be surprised if the players gave up on playing as an international team altogether. Now, news has just come in that Muttiah Muralitharan, who had a realistic shot at 1000 Test wickets, has decided to hang up his whites next year, though he will carry on playing one-day cricket till the World Cup in 2011. And thereafter he will focus solely on Twenty20 cricket. Murali had a frighteningly simple explanation: Test cricket is hard work.

Perhaps things are not as bad as they sound. Flintoff's decision is understandable. He has got the game for Test cricket but not the body, and maybe he would have made the same decision without the IPL pot. Pietersen is given to theatrics at the best of times. And in a team sport, the high of representing the nation would perhaps always be stronger than the lure of cash for most players; after all, international cricketers are not exactly on the verge of starvation.

But even if you are not an alarmist, this is, without doubt, the most volatile and unsettling period there has been in cricket. Almost everything - tradition, faith, beliefs, loyalties - is open to re-evaluation. In many ways it is cricket's hour of reckoning, but there are no clear options to choose from.

Cricket has always been the most unusual of sports. Grand, subtle, nuanced, cerebral and leisurely, it cannot be followed as a passing hobby. Test cricket demands devotion and engagement, and those willing to submit themselves are rewarded handsomely, for it is a treat for the senses. As a sport it is perennially in conflict with the pace of modern living, but at the same time it is a reassuring affirmation that all good things are timeless.

Also, no other sport is as rooted in national identity as cricket. That bilateral contests have always been the acme granted cricketers a gallant air despite the rampant commercialisation of the game in recent years: there is something noble about representing your country.

All this is being challenged now. The conflict between Tests and Twenty20 is stark and severe. Twenty20 has no past and it needs no context. It's a game without a pause and it relies on brazen entertainment. And the IPL is doing its best to subvert and obliterate national identity. None of this is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be argued that all of these are contributing to make cricket a more contemporary and accessible sport.

India has the market, but it needs the rest of the world to supply the talent to keep a tournament like the IPL attractive. As cricket's undisputed leader, the Indian board bears a moral responsibility towards world cricket, but it is also in its own long-term interests. World-class cricketers will not be bred in a vacuum

The reality for cricket is that it can afford neither to leave its past behind or to close its eyes to the future. For those who run the game, the way out of the muddle is not to tilt this way or the other but to find the middle path. To be able to do that, they must rise above parochial interests and their egos.

The biggest opportunity knocks in the form of the Future Tours Programme for 2012 to 2020. It could be one of the most important documents in the history of cricket. The next decade will be decisive for cricket, and the FTP can act as a significant statement of intent from the administrators.

There is only so much cricket the players, and equally importantly the spectators, can take. Sean Morris, the chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, the body that represents English cricketers, seems to have seen a draft of the 2012-20 programme, and he is horrified. But as long as it is only a draft, there is hope.

The IPL is seen by many cricket boards as the single most disruptive factor in international cricket. It challenges the primacy of bilateralism, and it is beyond most of the national boards to match its financial power. This concern is also tinged with envy.

There are no two ways about it. The IPL isn't about to go away. And inevitably the realisation is slowly seeping through that there can only be one of its kind. After two years of fumbling, the England Cricket Board seems to be coming around to the view that the P20, England's answer to the IPL, isn't sustainable. Similarly the Southern Premier League, the proposed Twenty20 tournament involving South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, is a non-starter. The logical way forward would be to create a space for the IPL in the international calendar. It shouldn't come down to a moral choice between cash and country for the players. It's not fair.

But equally, it cannot be a one-way street. Special status for the IPL must come with strings attached. It can start with the recognition that it is more than a domestic tournament. Being part of the international calendar should mean that its schedule is regulated just like the other international tournaments

With its television audience, India has the market, but it needs the rest of the world to supply the talent to keep a tournament like the IPL attractive. As cricket's undisputed leader, the Indian board bears a moral responsibility towards world cricket, but it is also in its own long-term interests. World-class cricketers will not be bred in a vacuum.

Still, the IPL is only part of the issue. There would have been fears about the future of Test cricket even if the IPL didn't exist. The recent series between Bangladesh and West Indies is an extreme example, but the truth is that without quality, Test cricket will wither away. Worthier people have said it already and so did your humble columnist last year: to preserve it as the highest form and to retain its appeal, Test cricket must be played at the highest level.

Several ideas have been floating about, relating to how to make Test cricket more attractive, including a Test championship and cutting the length down to four days. The main problem, however, is not the length of matches - imagine if the first two Ashes Tests this year had concluded on the fourth day: Cardiff would have been a crashing bore, and Lord's massively unfulfilling - but what happens on those 22 yards. Those who like their three-hour fixes will still find a four-day game much too long, and those who like Test cricket will continue to be drawn to it if the central contest - between bat and ball - remains absorbing enough.

Originally the FTP was drawn up on the basis of equality. But cricket's reality has changed. Test cricket between unequals, and between those not skilled enough, will draw no viewers, and will be a strain on the international calendar.

In order to survive, and prosper, Test cricket must cut out the fluff, not chop a day. The dream that Papua New Guinea and Estonia would one day play Test cricket was always a false one. For proliferation, there is no better tool than Twenty20. If anything, Test cricket needs to get more elitist: more five-match series between the top countries; no two-match series; and a second tier below the top seven, with the seventh spot being rotated on a promotion-relegation basis.

It will mean some radical changes to the structure of the game, and it will not be politically expedient. But if hard choices are not made now, there might not be a second chance.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • laxman_sachin_devotee on August 4, 2009, 17:31 GMT

    I think ian_whitchurch has watched no series between the Aus & Bangla series in 2006 & 2009. Thats why he thinks that after struggling against BD, Aus have been unable to play well in the Ashes 2009 & BD have gone on to conquer WI. He has conveniently forgotten that the 2006 Ashes 5-0 & 2007 World cup sweep have happened in between & BD have suffered continuous humiliations since World Cup 2007(including getting knocked out by the Irish in T20 world cup 2009). "Australia have got steadily worse and Bangladesh steadily worse". Get your foot out of your mouth mate & remember that April 2006 was followed by May 2006 & not July 2009. Some people just don't want to think of whether an idea has some merit(and I think Sambit's idea is very good as they usually are), & bluntly reject it. What gets worse is when they try to justify their cynicism with distorted facts. Their punishment should be to watch a Aus vs BD timeless test in Fatullah and watching Gillespie inflating his avg with a 300 :)

  • shak01 on August 4, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    I think test cricket should be expanded to encompass all cricket playing nations and have different leagues. An elite first tier would include the current test playing side (minus zimbabwe on the basis of them being excluded from the rankings anyway). The second tier could be the top developing nations (ireland, kenya etc) and then the various affiliates (USA etc) could be in regional leagues. The top team of each regional league could then go into a play off against teams from other regional winners. The winner of these plays offs (for the sake of ease these would just be two test series) would then go into the second tier ranking replacing the bottom team in the second tier. For the second tier the top two teams could replace the bottom two of the elite rankings. If the ICC then links financial incentives to teams (ie it pays to be placed high up the elite rankings) then it could make things interesting. By having more test cricket played around the world it would expand the game

  • Nipun on August 4, 2009, 13:05 GMT

    Agree with Sambit.(1)Now that Zimbabwe is out of test cricket,get Bangladesh & West Indies out of test cricket too.(2)Test series should consist of a minimum of 3 tests,& no teams shall meet each other within at least one year of their previous encounter.(3)The IPL is a serious disruption,but the players won't live without it,so keep a 2 month break in the FTP fixtures in which the IPL can be scheduled.(4)ICC should form a panel of pitch specialists who would analyze the pitch 1 or 2 days before the start of a test match.If the pitch is felt to be absolutely dead & not productive to a result,cancel the test from that venue & shift it to another venue,& this makeup test must be arranged after the planned last test of the series,i.e.if such a case happens in the 3rd test of the series,the 3rd test must be held after the completion of the 5th test:-the 4th test then becomes the 3rd test,& the 5th test becomes the 4th test,with the 3rd test becoming the 5th test.This to put bore draws off.

  • nsidd75 on August 4, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    there is a simple reason why test cricket must survive. It must remain as the pinnacle for players to achieve, where only the best XI get to play. There is a reason why its called test cricket. It is an embodiment on the best skills players have to offer.

    If 20/20 were to flourish we would lose the spectacle of watching the best. cricket will become a flush with players of mediocre skills bashing about. No longer would we see the beautiful drives, the tight defence, the close in fielders.

    I do not want to see mediocre players being called cricketers and as such do not enjoy 20/20 for that reason. 20/20 cricket is and should remain as a sunday afternoon pastime.

  • TheRightGame on August 2, 2009, 16:47 GMT

    I am not a big fan of Test cricket (except for India-Aus test matches). However, I perhaps would have cared more had there been some stakes attached against each test series. Maybe some sort of annual league with a relegation system. Now that would create some interest.

    Unless that happens I think test cricket would surely die in some years. And frankly I would not care as long as there is IPL.

  • ian_whitchurch on August 2, 2009, 7:59 GMT

    Herath-UK,

    To get to seven teams, and I'm assuming you're happy to abandon Bangladesh, who else do you want to destroy Test cricket in ... New Zealand, or the West Indies ?

    England one, Australia two, South Africa three, Pakistan four, India five, Sri Lanka six ... hmm, we have only one slot left. Show a backbone and tell me who you cut.

  • ian_whitchurch on August 2, 2009, 7:55 GMT

    Revelationme wrote

    "Why would a person want to see an aus v ban match?"

    Why indeed ? Fatullah 2006.

    End of the first day, Bangladesh 5-355, Nafees having got 138, most of it before lunch. The immortal Warne sitting at 0-100 odd, having been slapped to all parts of the ground. End of the second day, Bangladesh get to 427. Australia 6-147. Six wickets down, 280 runs behind !? End of the third day,Gilchrist drags Australia to 269 by his teeth, scoring 144 of them. Bangladesh 5-124, lead of 282 End of day 4 - Bangladesh knocked over for 148, lead of over 300. Is it enough ? Warne gets 3-28, to go with his 0-112 in the first innings. Australia end at 4-213, with Ponting and Gilchrist at the crease. Day 5 - Match ends, Australia get the 307, 7 wickets down. Ponting unbeaten on 118, with one of the great captains knocks in the fourth innings.

    And since that day, Australia have got steadily worse, and Bangladesh steadily better.

    Thats why I want to see Australia play Bangladesh.

  • mooeyoz on August 2, 2009, 5:37 GMT

    Why not split the West Indies for one day cricket? It's just an an all-star team anyway. At least four competitive countries would emerge from one dysfunctional unit making the ODI World Cup the pinnacle event with 16 teams and the chance of more unpredictable outcomes. Qualifying would be difficult with all the new challengers and quality of minnow play would improve. While we are at it, why do England & Wales still play together? They don't in other sports. As for tests, the ICC seems to like the number 6. Six teams in the top flight (Australia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, England, Pakistan). Second Division - 6 teams (West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Kenya) and so on with promotion and relegation between each to make it interesting. That might give the West Indies something to play for.

  • batbard on August 2, 2009, 1:04 GMT

    T20 is not junk food it's more like having a sports drinks with vitamin supplements. If one was to have sports drink with vitamin supplements for every meal it would eventually lead to one's untimely demise; once or twice a day is fine with a well balanced meal to round it off. Test cricket is that well balanced meal we need to maintain our health. OD's are junk food. Junk food is fine if it's a once and while meal, but having it every day will result in one becoming susceptible to obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, and it will result in an early death. In a perfect world we would have three balanced meals a day, but none us live in a perfect world due to time constraints and the hectic modern life. So we all make allowances to our dietary intake and so must cricket. Test cricket is the well balanced meal that maintains cricket health. Without Tests cricket, cricket will surely die.

  • MartinAmber on August 1, 2009, 21:16 GMT

    I agree with "poppingcrease" about 4-day Tests being a ridiculous idea. Had Cardiff (among many recent examples) been a four-day Test it would have been a dreadful draw and would therefore have given the doom-mongers enough to whine about for a whole summer.

    The counter-argument may be that 4 days would have brought about more attacking play. However, 4 days also brings the risk of declaration bowling and all sorts of other contrivances that do not belong in international cricket.

    Instead:

    Sort the pitches out.

    Give every Test match and series a context and incentive, ideally by introducing a championship that can lead to a mini-knockout featuring the top 4 teams every 4 years.

    Get rid of 2-Test series; make everything 3 Tests but allow for "icon" series to be extended.

    And by all means have second-tier matches, including perhaps a promotion/relegation series a la Davis Cup tennis.

    And stop playing so many ODIs, for crying out loud. 7 in September? yawwwwwn..

  • laxman_sachin_devotee on August 4, 2009, 17:31 GMT

    I think ian_whitchurch has watched no series between the Aus & Bangla series in 2006 & 2009. Thats why he thinks that after struggling against BD, Aus have been unable to play well in the Ashes 2009 & BD have gone on to conquer WI. He has conveniently forgotten that the 2006 Ashes 5-0 & 2007 World cup sweep have happened in between & BD have suffered continuous humiliations since World Cup 2007(including getting knocked out by the Irish in T20 world cup 2009). "Australia have got steadily worse and Bangladesh steadily worse". Get your foot out of your mouth mate & remember that April 2006 was followed by May 2006 & not July 2009. Some people just don't want to think of whether an idea has some merit(and I think Sambit's idea is very good as they usually are), & bluntly reject it. What gets worse is when they try to justify their cynicism with distorted facts. Their punishment should be to watch a Aus vs BD timeless test in Fatullah and watching Gillespie inflating his avg with a 300 :)

  • shak01 on August 4, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    I think test cricket should be expanded to encompass all cricket playing nations and have different leagues. An elite first tier would include the current test playing side (minus zimbabwe on the basis of them being excluded from the rankings anyway). The second tier could be the top developing nations (ireland, kenya etc) and then the various affiliates (USA etc) could be in regional leagues. The top team of each regional league could then go into a play off against teams from other regional winners. The winner of these plays offs (for the sake of ease these would just be two test series) would then go into the second tier ranking replacing the bottom team in the second tier. For the second tier the top two teams could replace the bottom two of the elite rankings. If the ICC then links financial incentives to teams (ie it pays to be placed high up the elite rankings) then it could make things interesting. By having more test cricket played around the world it would expand the game

  • Nipun on August 4, 2009, 13:05 GMT

    Agree with Sambit.(1)Now that Zimbabwe is out of test cricket,get Bangladesh & West Indies out of test cricket too.(2)Test series should consist of a minimum of 3 tests,& no teams shall meet each other within at least one year of their previous encounter.(3)The IPL is a serious disruption,but the players won't live without it,so keep a 2 month break in the FTP fixtures in which the IPL can be scheduled.(4)ICC should form a panel of pitch specialists who would analyze the pitch 1 or 2 days before the start of a test match.If the pitch is felt to be absolutely dead & not productive to a result,cancel the test from that venue & shift it to another venue,& this makeup test must be arranged after the planned last test of the series,i.e.if such a case happens in the 3rd test of the series,the 3rd test must be held after the completion of the 5th test:-the 4th test then becomes the 3rd test,& the 5th test becomes the 4th test,with the 3rd test becoming the 5th test.This to put bore draws off.

  • nsidd75 on August 4, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    there is a simple reason why test cricket must survive. It must remain as the pinnacle for players to achieve, where only the best XI get to play. There is a reason why its called test cricket. It is an embodiment on the best skills players have to offer.

    If 20/20 were to flourish we would lose the spectacle of watching the best. cricket will become a flush with players of mediocre skills bashing about. No longer would we see the beautiful drives, the tight defence, the close in fielders.

    I do not want to see mediocre players being called cricketers and as such do not enjoy 20/20 for that reason. 20/20 cricket is and should remain as a sunday afternoon pastime.

  • TheRightGame on August 2, 2009, 16:47 GMT

    I am not a big fan of Test cricket (except for India-Aus test matches). However, I perhaps would have cared more had there been some stakes attached against each test series. Maybe some sort of annual league with a relegation system. Now that would create some interest.

    Unless that happens I think test cricket would surely die in some years. And frankly I would not care as long as there is IPL.

  • ian_whitchurch on August 2, 2009, 7:59 GMT

    Herath-UK,

    To get to seven teams, and I'm assuming you're happy to abandon Bangladesh, who else do you want to destroy Test cricket in ... New Zealand, or the West Indies ?

    England one, Australia two, South Africa three, Pakistan four, India five, Sri Lanka six ... hmm, we have only one slot left. Show a backbone and tell me who you cut.

  • ian_whitchurch on August 2, 2009, 7:55 GMT

    Revelationme wrote

    "Why would a person want to see an aus v ban match?"

    Why indeed ? Fatullah 2006.

    End of the first day, Bangladesh 5-355, Nafees having got 138, most of it before lunch. The immortal Warne sitting at 0-100 odd, having been slapped to all parts of the ground. End of the second day, Bangladesh get to 427. Australia 6-147. Six wickets down, 280 runs behind !? End of the third day,Gilchrist drags Australia to 269 by his teeth, scoring 144 of them. Bangladesh 5-124, lead of 282 End of day 4 - Bangladesh knocked over for 148, lead of over 300. Is it enough ? Warne gets 3-28, to go with his 0-112 in the first innings. Australia end at 4-213, with Ponting and Gilchrist at the crease. Day 5 - Match ends, Australia get the 307, 7 wickets down. Ponting unbeaten on 118, with one of the great captains knocks in the fourth innings.

    And since that day, Australia have got steadily worse, and Bangladesh steadily better.

    Thats why I want to see Australia play Bangladesh.

  • mooeyoz on August 2, 2009, 5:37 GMT

    Why not split the West Indies for one day cricket? It's just an an all-star team anyway. At least four competitive countries would emerge from one dysfunctional unit making the ODI World Cup the pinnacle event with 16 teams and the chance of more unpredictable outcomes. Qualifying would be difficult with all the new challengers and quality of minnow play would improve. While we are at it, why do England & Wales still play together? They don't in other sports. As for tests, the ICC seems to like the number 6. Six teams in the top flight (Australia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, England, Pakistan). Second Division - 6 teams (West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Kenya) and so on with promotion and relegation between each to make it interesting. That might give the West Indies something to play for.

  • batbard on August 2, 2009, 1:04 GMT

    T20 is not junk food it's more like having a sports drinks with vitamin supplements. If one was to have sports drink with vitamin supplements for every meal it would eventually lead to one's untimely demise; once or twice a day is fine with a well balanced meal to round it off. Test cricket is that well balanced meal we need to maintain our health. OD's are junk food. Junk food is fine if it's a once and while meal, but having it every day will result in one becoming susceptible to obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, and it will result in an early death. In a perfect world we would have three balanced meals a day, but none us live in a perfect world due to time constraints and the hectic modern life. So we all make allowances to our dietary intake and so must cricket. Test cricket is the well balanced meal that maintains cricket health. Without Tests cricket, cricket will surely die.

  • MartinAmber on August 1, 2009, 21:16 GMT

    I agree with "poppingcrease" about 4-day Tests being a ridiculous idea. Had Cardiff (among many recent examples) been a four-day Test it would have been a dreadful draw and would therefore have given the doom-mongers enough to whine about for a whole summer.

    The counter-argument may be that 4 days would have brought about more attacking play. However, 4 days also brings the risk of declaration bowling and all sorts of other contrivances that do not belong in international cricket.

    Instead:

    Sort the pitches out.

    Give every Test match and series a context and incentive, ideally by introducing a championship that can lead to a mini-knockout featuring the top 4 teams every 4 years.

    Get rid of 2-Test series; make everything 3 Tests but allow for "icon" series to be extended.

    And by all means have second-tier matches, including perhaps a promotion/relegation series a la Davis Cup tennis.

    And stop playing so many ODIs, for crying out loud. 7 in September? yawwwwwn..

  • Herath-UK on August 1, 2009, 20:37 GMT

    Sambit is absolutely right!The ONLY way that Test cricket could survive in the present climax today is by the intensity and thrill the competing two teams provide in the match.If you dilute that the wider public (other than fans of the two teams) is going to lose the interest and Test cricket is going to fall apart; a similar analogy that you can't accomadate all in the life boat,it will capsize killing ALL! LIMITthe Tests to the top 7/8 nations,MORE five match Tests between the top countries and TWO tier system on relegation basis ,you 've hit the nail on the head! ICC please take note and take action.

  • HBt20 on August 1, 2009, 20:37 GMT

    The IPL can't survive without Test cricket - simple as that.

    The illusion that the IPL is this all conquering force will turn to dust as soon the current crop of legends retire from it unless the legends of tomorrow are forged in the combative arena that is elite Test cricket.

    The BCCI can not expect the rest of the world to develop their best players gratis to see them retire to the IPL aged 28 at the peak of their powers.

    Therefore the IPL must be given a permanent slot in the calendar and in return the BCCI must share the profits divided pro rata between all the countries that supply players based either on the numbers of players supplied or their cumulative contract worth.

    No TV company will pay billions of dollars to see county and state nobodies hurling a bat at medium pace trundlers - and that is all that will be left without test cricket.

    Would Flintoff & Pietersen command million dollar contracts unless they had the kudos of the 2005 Ashes? I don't think so

  • slowbouncer on August 1, 2009, 17:49 GMT

    instead of worrying too much about the future of test cricket, we just need to understand that, as times change, so do people and their priorities. in every field, from music, to food, to fashion, to the long novel, the 'classic' has not died - it has at best adjusted, or has had to re-invent. Once we accept that, much like gourmet cuisine, test cricket will have its special, but limited place, the junk wont hurt. we need to make 33-33-33 pitches. pitches that favor all three variables in cricket - the batsmen, the fast bowlers, and the spinners. Who would not love to see batsmen hopping around in the face of hostile fast bowling, or groping away in front of nippy, mesmerizing spin? The pitches should ensure that a test match does not last more than 300 overs, all 4 innings put together. Let a 100 become extremely difficult to make - and i believe people will want to come back to test cricket - of course after they've had their fill of junk food

  • revelationme on August 1, 2009, 17:23 GMT

    Test cricket in its present form should remain so...the teams playing it should not. An Ashes test draws as many people as a T20 for 5 days. Tests must be played between two competitive teams. Why would a person want to see an aus v ban match? there is no reason for him to do so. And the idea of a four day test is only going to increase the rate of demise oof test cricket. and the ftp needs a major overhaul with only the best playing test cricket.

  • pRAP on August 1, 2009, 16:06 GMT

    IPL should be played once in 2/3 years. What is the point of having next world t20 in 11 months time? It will only decline the t20 craze. Try to keep a balance among the 3 formats of the game.Though some changes in the test format are necessary. What about playing 4-day test match in floodlights with colored clothes with each team having two innings of 90 over each. Apply DL formula to get results of rain affected games.Only some changes can save test matches otherwise classic players like VVS laxman, Justin Langer, Rahul Dravid will never be able to showcase their talent to the world.

  • poppingcrease on August 1, 2009, 15:40 GMT

    Sambit is absolutely spot on...

    4 day tests is a ridiculuos idea, 2 test series must be abolished and we need to have just 8 test playing nations (whcih includes a full strength West Indies)

  • TheMissingAllrounder on August 1, 2009, 15:13 GMT

    I agree except for the conclusion. Cricket should be less elitist. I know of no other team sport that only recognises the top few countries at the elite level and condemns the rest as also rans.

    The conclusion should be abolishing the Future Tours Program so teams only play as many series as they want to and aren't forced to play meaningless series. This automatically reduces the number of games, reduces the risk of player burnout and opens up opportunities for profitable non-national tournaments such as the IPL to hold down a steady spot in the calendar.

    Bangladesh should be playing test cricket as should Ireland, Kenya and all other half-decent cricket-playing countries. Bangladesh might find that Australia don't want to play against them but Sri Lanka, West Indies, Ireland and Kenya do. Kenya might find that Sri Lanka and the Windies don't want to play them but South Africa agrees to occasional games. Why shouldn't they? Why do we need rigid tiers? Get rid of the elitism!

  • Subra on August 1, 2009, 15:06 GMT

    Sambit - a simple question. If you were a worker and you had a choice of chosing one of two jobs - ones pays a lot of money for working for 3 hours. In the other case there is a job considered elitist but you have to work 10 times longer but are paid a pittance what would you chose. If Test cricket is the highest form pay the players accordingly, so that they can make more money playing Test matches rather than T20, and then see the Player's reaction. Pious words are not going to pay the bills. Why work so hard to earn so little, so they quit, play the lucrative T20 leagues, have more time with the family! Of course, the pitches have to meet certain specific guidelines or ban them for 2 years. If we pay the cricketers for their sacrifice and improve the pitches - see the players and the public's reactions. Cricket already has the equivalent of the 5 Nations - 8 Countries and ensure that all get an equal number of matches. SL having only 2 Tests in 2010 is absurd! Siva from Singapore

  • Percy_Fender on August 1, 2009, 13:32 GMT

    Test Cricket will always be the real thing for genuine cricket lovers. Unfortunately,I fear that this breed of people is reducing in number because most of them are the older lot of afficianados of the game who may be in the evening of their lives. I am one of them and have enjoyed the game on field or over radio and now on the television for the last 6 decades. I found the introduction to limited over cricket jarring initially but have since adapted to both the limited formats of the game.Therefore for me, each variation of international cricket gives a different viewing appeal. I have, as I said, loved watching Test cricket for which reason I am a trifle worried that people are talking about this format waning in popularity. I thought it may actually be a good idea if we injected a bit of the limited over spirit by making Test cricket of only 90 overs per innings for two innings as it is now. There could be some other restictions as well. Each series should be for three teams.

  • KP_84 on August 1, 2009, 11:49 GMT

    I think a 2-tier structure would be fun. Only, it should be less elitist and Zimbabwe and Ireland should start in the second tier (a total of 11 Test teams). Ire & Zim will not improve as quickly by playing against mediocre Associate-level opponents who they dominate. Test cricket in 2 tiers would also make a "Test Championship" more plausible since fewer opponents = fewer matches = shorter duration. Just think of all the 1st Division relegation battles and 2nd Division promotion battles we can look forward to!

  • dmudge on August 1, 2009, 11:42 GMT

    just one more idea ..... could test cricket work on a franchise basis also ? Create 6 franchises and let them bid for players, then play home and away tests against each opponent in the calendar year (i.e. 10 rounds). Trophy for the winner.

  • Sportsscientist on August 1, 2009, 0:49 GMT

    some excellent points being rasied. all have been spoken about before, but what is going to be done?? having 2 teirs is a good idea, but what about each teir playing in a test championship over a year/18 month period? award a trophy & relax the league until the next CWC on a 4 yr cycle, and so on. for the duration of the next 2 and a half yrs, during the relaxed period if players dont want to play tests they can play in the IPL, and other 20twenty leagues to earn money, so long as they are available for the next test championship league. and so what if england or australia in the future get relegated from the 1st teir?? tough...thats competition. so what if there is a 3rd teirin the future?? why can't ireland & kenya aim for the top?? the best irish players already play county cricket. in football african & central american countries are improving against the european & south americans all the time. I hope the ICC read these, because if something is not done soon I fear for cricket

  • JS82 on August 1, 2009, 0:15 GMT

    I disagree with Sambit on the tier system. A tier system will just deteriorate the progress that Ban has made over last 9 years. You have to see the development of Ban cricket in phases. The first phase (1997-2002) consisted of old and List A experienced players who worked very hard to make Ban earn the test status (and that's it). Second phase (2002-2006) is the "live and learn" players phase. These players had no first class experience so they basically learned on the go. The third phase (2006-current) are the players who came out of various age group cricket and these guys if stay put will form a solid team with few more years experience. Our second string or A team needs to play more often against the likes of AUS or SA A teams. We also need help from AU or ENG or IND to accommodate our players in their first class leagues. Ban has a very big fan base and the infrastructure to grow. If people were patient with NZ for 26 years, you can wait for BAN too :-).

  • AakashShah_ on July 31, 2009, 20:58 GMT

    maybe a test word cup between the top 8 teams would keep the test cricket alive. we have 50 overs WC and t20 WC then why not test matches world cup every four years

  • AakashShah_ on July 31, 2009, 20:55 GMT

    Test cricket is only popular in Australia and England and the stadiums are full of people because they have series like Ashes which takes place every two years and has 5 test maches. every country should have series like Ashes against each others. India and Pakistan will be a good choice.

  • wanderer1 on July 31, 2009, 18:43 GMT

    A tiered system is all fine and dandy, but imagine if England happened to find themselves in Tier 2, whilst a Sri Lanka or Pakistan go on a good run and get themselves higher (P.S. SL is already ranked higher in tests).

    Even India's "golden period" is coming to an end, with more top players retiring in the next couple of years, what would happen if they find themselves in 5th or 6th best in the world and in Tier 2?

    Or is this a case of those with money play each other whilst those without (but with very good teams) have to make do?

  • blindedpilot on July 31, 2009, 16:20 GMT

    This is the most ridiculous piece of crap I have read in a while. I can understand why there are reasons for tier system in cricket and I am almost 50-50 on that idea. However, Samit has done a very poor job of justifying it. If ICC follows his idea, cricket will be a dead sport around the world, except for in 6 or 7 countries. And I am going to stop following cricket; it is a massive statement for someone who lives and breathes cricket.

    Stop writing pure garbage! You are bringing down the quality of Cricinfo.

  • pscricket on July 31, 2009, 16:15 GMT

    If Golf has chance to survive with its loyal base of supporters, Test cricket should survive but as Sambit Bal says the quality will matter. The sad thing about IPL is that it is cricket's answer to NBA, English Premiere League, Spanish Football League etc. Yes there are English county matches, Australian Cricket Leagues and Indian domestic league, but seriously they remain confined within certain limits. The quality of games played this year, and big names involved and commercialization related with the event at IPL is what cricket should aim for but maybe for TEST cricket. The tier system with its quality teams and competition might provide that appetite. If Rugby can be played by five nations and the matches unlike cricket's calendar does not go on throughout the year. At times it just seems there is too much cricket being played. Its up to Indians psyche that will determine how things will evolve. Money does matter but the Indian businessmen should let the cricket spirit alive.

  • Hoggy_1989 on July 31, 2009, 15:05 GMT

    the way to keep Test cricket alive is to ensure more results. The ICC should be putting pressure on groundsmen and cricket boards to make pitches that suit an even contest...not flat batting tracks that produce boring draws, like what happens in the subcontinent far too often. If the groundsmen and the cricket boards don't do what they are told...teams don't play Test matches at that ground for 12 months. That should keep the games interesting, and the players wanting to play Test cricket, because the batsman will enjoy the challenge of playing quality bowlers and bowlers will enjoy playing on a surface that helps them out, thus reducing their workload. And the fans see exciting cricket, which gives the board more money. Everyone wins!

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 14:39 GMT

    JamesB,

    You allege 'If countries like NZ and Windies want fewer tests, let them have it

    I'm interested. When have either NZ or Windies asked for fewer tests ?

    Put up or shit up - with citations, thank you.

  • NBRADEE on July 31, 2009, 14:28 GMT

    Every ground at which Test cricket is played is more lively and sponsor-sought when other forms of cricket are being played as compared to the five-day version. The economic situation therefore must be taken into consideration for a re-scheduling of the FTP to ensure that this does not continue. One solution would realistically involve less Test cricket played on an annual basis, to preserve the niche attraction for when it is offered. Eventually, cricketers and the game will be preserved. Still for the Windies, the WICB must go!!!

  • LukeTheDuke on July 31, 2009, 14:04 GMT

    I agree with Sambit that In order to survive, and prosper, Test cricket must cut out the fluff, not chop a day. Test cricket should be a format which should not be touched from its history and legacy. Do all the experiments with T20 or 50-50 matches. The most responsible country and board for the death of test cricket is India, without a question of doubt. I see Indian team schedule to play 2 test matches and 7 ODIs, that is highly stupid. Whats the fun in a bilateral ODI series for 7 matches, why can't they play 4-5 test matches on sporting pitches. Only Australia, England and SA are keeping the Test cricket alive. If ICC does't take some stands Test Cricket is gonna die in next 10 years..

  • jamesb on July 31, 2009, 12:56 GMT

    Excellent article. Give a month for the IPL, it's an internationally-based competition. Without star international players it's nowhere. The only stumbling block is the pathetic ICC and there insistence on uniformity, i.e. the FTP. The top teams should be playing 5-test series. Imagine if India v Aus last year had been 5 matches instead of 4, or SA v Aus had been 5 tests home and away. Missed opportunities. Why does veryone have to be the same? Too much uniformity, we don't need shopping-mall cricket. If countries like NZ and Windies want fewer tests, let them have it. Fewer test series, more 2020 internationals would give a balance of quality and entertainment. 50-over cricket is tired. Compare 2007 world cup with the 2 T20 tournaments: the 2020s were great competitions.

  • Allan716 on July 31, 2009, 12:55 GMT

    Hey Sambit! I totally agree with you. Elite seven or eight and the teams below playing four day Tests is what I think will help the game. The second tier should also have limited over games so that there are more results and followers. Positions 7 an 8 should be relegated while the top two teams from division two should be promoted. This will keep the sanctity of the game and will also make the bottom teams fight hard. I absolutely agree that the two match and four match Test series should be abolished.

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    People, read his pice more carefully.

    He's proposing a 3 tier system.

    Tier 3: Banghladesh and Zimbabwe, piss off. Kenya, never goanna make it, even if you find an Imran. Anyone else bye "those not skilled enough, will draw no viewers, and will be a strain on the international calendar".

    Tier 2 : New Zealand, the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. If you're lucky, you fit in below the more'' five-match series between the top countries''. Unless their players are busy in the IPL. Or tired. If not, well, ''those not skilled enough, will draw no viewers, and will be a strain on the international calendar''.

    Tier One : You're all right jack. Unless of course you arent skilled enough or dont draw enough viewers. So, if for example, you lose your best quick, and your best slow bowler, and your great wicket keeper-batsman, well, then you're out of the top tier. Have fun.

  • Namboodiripad on July 31, 2009, 12:03 GMT

    When we are comparing Tests and T20 we are comparing incomparables. It is like comparing Gin and Beer. Both are drunk in bars, available in bottles, are alcoholic in nature, made by similar core processes( I don't know the technicals), and drunk for companionship, in times of grief or happiness... But that doesn't make them the same. Similarly T20 is entertainment pure and simple. Test cricket is a game. One is competing against the Sare Gama, Nach Baliye and Rakhi ka Swayamvar while the other against football, tennis et al. The target audience is also different. I like test cricket and hardly watch T20, my wife watches only T20. T20 will do well as long as a better entertainment option competing in the same time slot doesn't come on TV. Test cricket will survive as long as cricket fans are there and ICC doesn't goof up trying to make it a TV game show.

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 12:03 GMT

    Mr Bal,

    I feel I do have to go to war with you, because, as one of my friends from www.banglacricket.com reminded me, we are talking about the potential slow death of world cricket.

    If we allow a large chunk of the season for the IPL, and if we allow 5 match test series for the top teams, then what happens to cricket in New Zealand, in the West Indies, in Sri Lanka, and in Pakistan ?

    They dont get to play Australia, England, South Africa or India, as they are either busy playing each other in long series, having their players in the IPL, or having their players recover from the above.

    Mr Bal, this is a question you are not limited to 1000 characters on, so I believe you shiould be able to answer it. Under your system, what does happen to cricket in New Zealand, in the West Indies, in Sri Lanka, and in Pakistan ?

  • testcricketforever on July 31, 2009, 11:56 GMT

    It gets as simple as this. WHAT IS CRICKET?? Thw 1st thing about cricket is that there is a batsman and then there is a bowler. A bowler bowls and batsman bats, scores runs and then more runs, if he scores 5 runs in the over he thinks to score more, its a pleasure to him batting.. again its instinct of a bowler to bowl more and more.. thats what happens to every young boy taking bat and bowl in his hand. batter wants to bat even if he is out and bowler wants to bowl even if his over has ended.. and there lies the cricket.... a player will never be satisfied bowling 3-4 overs and a batsman would want to play for all innings... so test cricket is real cricket and will never die because of the basics of cricket that its a lengthened game.

  • nikhil11 on July 31, 2009, 11:53 GMT

    I think their is just too much ga ga abt test cricket. Test cricket is no where to go. the only think tht can happen in my opinion is number of ODI's will go down. I dont knw who makes the FTP but he should consider in a yearly cricket season half the period should be given to nation spirited test cricket and half the period to the competitive T20's. ODI had its fare share of play and now ots time for ODI to go. Long Live test cricket.

  • TwitterJitter on July 31, 2009, 11:35 GMT

    Mostly agree with Sambit except on IPL window where I agree with IPLFan that it is time to spin off T20 overall from ICC and let it go its own way. If they are so distant products with different fan base, T20 and tests should each operate separately and do justice for its own format. If as people claim, T20 is a passing phase, the product will collapse and no worries for test cricket fans from T20, although soccer will gobble their market share in countries like India soon if test cricket is only product they offer. ManU is making serious attempts to get into Indian market within the last year after seeing success of IPL and it is only a matter of time before they make serious inroads. If on the other hand T20 retains a huge market share after spin off, test cricket lovers cannot complain because they got what they wanted. The onus is on them to spend money and support test cricket. Now a future battle between T20 and soccer in India will be interesting! I want to see who wins there.

  • Venkatb on July 31, 2009, 11:24 GMT

    I disagree with the author - other than Australia and England, every other team had to go through a "support" phase in their respective early years. Yes, India and WI (in the 50s) had 5 test series in England before WI established its upper tier status and India was relegated to joint 3-test tours. This model is being adopted by most countries today that is before commercialism and greed came in (read BCCI) - despite being stretched by Bangladesh in its debut series, BD has never been invited to tour India. The ICL was hounded out as disruptive to world cricket but the reality is that the BCCI saw a version of cricket where it could not partake in the pie, and hence the IPL which in reality has been much more disruptive. In the end, we will realize that the Indian public, lacking other forms of entertainment, are foolishly squandering money on pyjama cricket and vulgarizing the game. Players follow the money and crossbats/swots reign over technique. Is this what we want?

  • instigator on July 31, 2009, 11:22 GMT

    anybody remember what gayle says and he nearly get his head knock off. we all know that now players rather the shorter forms of the game.

  • Lovetesh on July 31, 2009, 11:16 GMT

    It is absolutely futile exercise to compare one form of game with another and choosing one over the other. Similar backlash and concerns were raised about one day cricket when it started in early 70's. Administrators (old timers) certainly didn't like too much of one day cricket and expected it to remain limited to exhibitions like world cups. But we all know what one day cricket become afterwards. Same would happen to 20/20. Administrators trying to limit the game to IPL and world cups, with minimum 20/20 in bi-lateral series. There is no point wasting the efforts and energy in keeping the innovation/change down. I don't believe that any player hate test cricket, its just a matter that right now there is too much of cricket that a player can take and that makes 20/20 a better option. I agree with Bal that test cricket should be more more elitist now to keep the interest of both the viewers as well as players alive.

  • abhi.2009 on July 31, 2009, 10:06 GMT

    i think samit is perfectly right to divide test cricket in 2 fold but in my point of view i agree with some of my mates view that if countries like newzealand and westindies will be put in second tier it will hinder test cricket there . in my point of view 2 tiers must be there but what should be done top 8 teams must be in one league while the other 2 ie bangaldesh and zimababwe must be in 2tier . both of them must play as much test cricket among them as possible and we all know that both of them match each other so it might provide boost to both of them. and the country performing better must be given chances to play with elite countries after 2 year . it will help maintaing crciket level . howver during these period it must be necceseary that atleast 1 of top 8 nationans must play an odi series not less than 5 match so that it may help them mainting interest of viewers and collecting revenues as well. while the other nation will alos get chance to play more 5 match and 3 test .

  • lanka_86 on July 31, 2009, 9:48 GMT

    How about abolishing ODIs? Since Tests and 20/20s are so different, it'll reduce competition between them. Making it the only 'long form' might breathe new life into Test cricket.

  • lanka_86 on July 31, 2009, 9:40 GMT

    What test cricket needs is more equality. Most importantly, the quality of teams (eg. NZ, WI) and income for country boards. But what comes first? Will a two tier system lead to more competitive test series, 3-5 test series become standard) and greater crowds and TV rights, or will it just destroy test cricket in better countries in the lower tier (NZ, WI). Or will spreading the income from all 20/20s and ODIs more equitably between cricket boards lead to more equal teams. One thing's for sure, one standard 20/20 franchhise-based league with income going back to individual board is required.

  • maddy_cric on July 31, 2009, 9:37 GMT

    There are umpteen statements being made about the so called danger to test cricket and the impending danger that T-20 poses. While most of this is true, there might be a very good way of dealing with it. For the top 4 teams, the series must be 5 tests when they play among the others in the group. There should be an official test championship in place which takes into stock home and away series and points are calculated at end of 2 years. Sometimes I feel a football style approach involving promotion and relegation should also be in place to help fuel competition. Also, the idea of flood lit test matches is definitely something that can be given a try considering the fact that larger audiences will be attracted if games are held later in the evenings. A well designed and phased approach to test cricket can definitely help increase and sustain interest in viewers and also more importantly reduces burnout and redirects the focus of cricketers towards the best form of the game.

  • Duke_84 on July 31, 2009, 9:33 GMT

    Leeroy,how can you put SL alongside NZ,WI and Bangladesh?SL has lost a test series only in Australia during the past 3 years.You claim to dislike elitism in cricket,but you still harbour those thoughts. Better get your facts right cause SL is in the top tier of cricket in all formats.Get with the times bro,this ain't 1982!

  • magic_torch_jamie on July 31, 2009, 9:26 GMT

    Sambit Bal's comments are surely poorly founded. Nothing has really hapened lately to change the nature of the matter. The BCCI's wealth has changed the topography of cricket but let us unpick some facts. Flintoff is retiring because his body isn't up to it. Pietersen just loves Kevin Pietersen, wants lots of money and to increase the legend that is Kevin Pietersen. NZ players sadly could earn so much more money in 20/20 (poor Shane Bond). And Murali is an incredibly magnanimous chap who wants to give the young tyros a go in Tests. The Future Tours programme could easily be revised. No, the real problem is what happens to countries in difficult situations. Zimbabwe should sadly leave international cricket for now but cricket is the best way to get Sri Lanka and Pakistan back politically into the international fold. And the vexed question of West Indies is perhaps hardest of all. We all hope it's to cricket's and its playing nations' benefit.

  • D.V.C. on July 31, 2009, 9:17 GMT

    So, how to get around the prospect of being stuck in Teir 2 killing Test cricket in your country. I have a solution. Make Teir 1 only 5 or 6 teams. Require that every 2 years each team in Teir 1 must play a Test series against a team in Teir 2, in the Teir 2 team's country. That's still about the same amount of cricket as a 7 team Test Championship. This model can be played with a little, but the basic idea is that there is a Test champoionship and a Division 2 (perhaps also an ICC Associate championship for the right to be in Division 2). The majority of games are played intra-Championship and intra-Division 2, but a smaller number of required games are played inter-division.

  • zohir on July 31, 2009, 9:15 GMT

    Role of market is recognized - so is the need to match supply side with non-Indian talents. But Sambit preaches for control by a single agency; and we have seen how brutally the game has been played to eliminate the ICL initiative. True, singular control assures quality and matching of supply and demand - but only for a short period. Such controls are bound to breed inefficiency and shrink the market size. It is important to appreciate one difference between the Roman gladiators and the current cricketers. Passion with national element, no matter how petty it sounds, makes cricket (and every sport) more interesting; and is a key element in the sustenance of the market. No wonder IPL had to succumb to the regional names! And ICL had Dhaka Warriors! We want Sambit to probe into alternatives with multiple agencies and leagues that allow players to move between leagues. This may increase the supply of quality cricketers, widen market and increase the readership of well-performing Cricinfo

  • idontknowidontcare on July 31, 2009, 9:10 GMT

    Its not too difficult. First get rid of the 50 over games, which do not serve any purpose anyway. Before Twenty20 began everyone used to curse the 50 over games, but now suddenly, it has "got a tradition" behind it. How interesting.

    Next, don't do a two tier system, but a 3 tier system. Tier 3 will have West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and similar junk teams. In the top 2 tiers, accomodate the remaining 7 teams on a relegation-promotion basis.

    The teams in Tier 3 have already proved that there is no scope of improvement, so putting them in a relegation-promotion system means that one junk team will move to the upper tier every two years, and we are back to where we started from.

    Maybe once every 10 years, the teams in tier 3 could be promoted to tier 2 based on their performance.

  • D.V.C. on July 31, 2009, 9:06 GMT

    I like your model for Test cricket. What's more making the IPL more international is the best suggestion I've heard as to how to deal with it. The IPL can have its place on the internaitonal calendar IF it removes the restrictions on the number of internationals per starting XI. Then India, like every other country, can have its own domestic T20 carnival (i.e. a short tournament involving the domestic teams) AND the IPL, for which all cricketers who want to play will be available for auction. T20Is should be kept as is, limited in number (as demonstration games and curtain raisers) and pushed for in the Olympics (maybe then you would also need qualifying games/tournaments). That should be the model. All of this, the Test championship, ODIs, Olympic T20Is, needs to work on a 4 year cycle. The domestic competitions and the IPL annually.

  • donthaveaclue on July 31, 2009, 9:00 GMT

    Sambit's argument is along the lines of classic (or not depending on which camp you belong to) economics theory that suggests subsidies and price controls in order to keep ailing industries in business. If test cricket is as jaded and brittle as the article suggests, then it's only logical to let it be consumed by the shorter version.

    That said, is 20-20 and the IPL that menacing? Sure, it's had high TRPs and tremendous advertising revenue but will it keep 'em coming? Also, remember that the USP of the IPL is the presence of recognized test-match stars. Would the public be interested in watching cricketers without pedigree slog it around the park? I highly doubt it. Bottomline, no test cricket, no IPL, and potentially, no cricket.

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 8:26 GMT

    The other point to note is we're seeing a changing of the guard in the great players - Warne, Lara and McGrath are gone, Kumble is going, and we've seen the best of Sachin ?

    Who shall replace them ?

    Well, certainly not Shakib al Hasan, if Sambit Bal gets what he wants and the Tigers get thrown out of Test cricket.

    I mean, it's not as if India could produce Test cricketers - they got bowled out for 52 and 82 in a day.

    And Pakistan are yet to produce a decent fast bowler - if your frame of reference is 1969.

    I mean, what do we do if the next Imran is from Kenya ?

  • rtom on July 31, 2009, 8:15 GMT

    a simple solution... why not ICC stop having 20 overs cricket ?? for atlest couple of years.. ban it..then we all know that the real contest comes from the Test cricket. look at the Eng-Aus cricket series going on. the first two tests were just the example of how tasty the tests can be !! ICC somehow has to step in and take some harsh decisions ... if you say that Indian board has more say in these days, then persuade them to take these decision.. we need the test cricket. Ask any class player in the cricketing world.. they would opt for Test cricket...not the slam-bang cricket...

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 7:58 GMT

    Gzawilliam,

    My cheap little Nokia phone plays 20/20 as one of the included games.

    And I cant play a forward defensive shot, even if the ball and situation deserves it, just swing and pray ... yeah, it's a sign of the future.

  • Kunal-Talgeri on July 31, 2009, 7:52 GMT

    It may be worth noting that Sachin Tendulkar has often given national Twenty20 series a miss -- in favour of ODIs and Tests. Of course, it can also be argued that he's the richest cricketer and so the decision seems easier to make. So, Bal is right that the picture is anything but clear for all concerned.

  • gzawilliam on July 31, 2009, 7:45 GMT

    I think it was paul collingwood who said it perfectly recently.

    50 years down the track if 20/20 takes over the "stars" / "hero's of the game will have averages of 24 but a strike rate of 170.. with a highest score of 89 or something..

    Wow what amazing numbers that gives to someone's career.. Gone will be the double hundred to save a match over the last two days. Or the 10wicket haul in a match.. Or the proper average for an elite player like tendulkar of 58odd.

    Once again society want to see the end before the journey. 20/20 would be a great video game thats about all.

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 7:21 GMT

    Sambit Bal argues for eliminating Bangladesh from Test cricket.

    What does he base this on ? Let us ignore the recent whitewashing of the West Indies, as the Tigers faced a WICB-selected eleven that eliminated many of their best players.

    2007-8 tour of Bangladesh by New Zealand. First Test - cracking match, won by 3 wickets by NZ on the last day. Second Test, ruined by rain.

    Then Sri Lanka in Bangladesh. First Test - absolutely cracking match, Bangladesh chase 521 and lose, after being 6-403. Second Test, Sri Lanka get 600 ahead before they declare.

    Then we get Bangladesh in South Africa. No actual first-class games, just some ODIs and a 12 a side match. And, surprisingly, just like Australia in Bangladesh in Fatullah '06 and the Windies in England in '09, Bangladesh with one two day (!) preperation match completely fail to cope with the different conditions.

    Yes, Test cricket needs to be more elite. So bring back first-class games, that let good cricketers adapt to the conditions!

  • Shashi_23 on July 31, 2009, 7:17 GMT

    Agree With Sambit. It is totally in sync with the opinion held by former players and true fans. The people who make a hue and cry about test cricket are naive and perhaps new fans. I still remember how we bunch of school boys used to follow Indian cricket team's tours to Aus, SA, WI etc. Every moment is etched in memory. Allan Donald Bowling Sachin with a beauty. Sachin's 169. Truly great nostalgia.. We are the true fans. Crickt should cater to us rather than corporates going the IPL way.

  • Prats6 on July 31, 2009, 7:15 GMT

    Excellent aricle, Sambit. Time and again you show that you are one of the most suave and intelligent of writers. People who love Test cricket would love it anyway. The 4 day game is a joke. And make Test cricket more elitist, cutting it down to 6-7 is great, it gives the teams a real kick in order to perform.

    Preparing good wickets is one of the most essential things. Wickets such as we saw in SriLanka and unlike what we have in Nagpur and most in Pakistan, flat belters.

  • Warney708 on July 31, 2009, 7:00 GMT

    Comparing Test Cricket to T20 is like comparing Golf to Putt Putt or the Beatles to the Backstreet Boys. Test Cricket will always remain the true test, hence 'Test' Cricket. If the concept of a second tier Test Match "League" comes to fruition, will those countries be awarded Test Match or first class Status? Certainly not I hope?!! In South Africa, there are 2 provincial competitions, one being an amateur competition which counts for First Class stats. So scoring a hundred against South Western Districts at a club field in the middle of nowhere can basically be compared to scoring a hundred against Australia at the MCG?? - And please bring back 5 match Test Series, what is with the 2,3, and 4 match series'? I would rather sit in the sun at Newlands for 5 days watching a Drawn Test than watching some nonsense 20/20 rubbish!! In 50 years time, are people going to remember the 20/20 specialists in the same way that people remember Bradman, Sobers, Lara etc - I think not!

  • LeeroyW on July 31, 2009, 6:42 GMT

    More elitist? That seems to be the same logic as "drink more to become more sober". A two-tier system sounds good at first glance, but think about it more carefully and the flaws are obvious. Cricket is already floundering in a country like New Zealand. Partly due to NZC selling tv rights to sky, partly due to T20 and partly due to the FTP that gives us precious little test cricket. In a two-tier system NZ would be resigned to playing Bangladesh, WI and Sri-Lanka for years. Crowds in NZ are already low enough as it is. Such an itinerary would pretty much kill cricket's already dwindling interest there. There are plenty of ex-pat English and Indians in NZ who fill up the grounds on tours of NZ. Not to mention, Nzers love to play against Australia and will turn out to see. More elitism will just hurt the game even more where it's struggling most. To improve your skill you have to play against the best from time to time. Denying this opportunity is not the way to save test cricket.

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 6:40 GMT

    Oh yes, and Mr Sambal ... we both accept that Indian TV and gambling money is at the heart of things. And, sooner or later, India is going to have a team that stinks (and to the touchy crowd in sky blue - relax, it happens to everyone, eventually. Look at this Australian team, for example. Lol).

    When this happens, will they get dropped out of the top tier ?

    I'm not expecting you to answer that,Mr Sambal. After all,by forgetting to mention at any point any of the teams to be culled,you have already proved you have enough moral courage to serve on the ICC.

    But we shouldn't kid ourselves. Who pays the piper,calls the tune.

    Me, I'm not as hung up on the elite;I'm more concerned with the production line that creates new players. I want to see the A tours that let batsmen who got some runs in domestic cricket see if they can bat in radically different conditions. I want a ICC Wanderers XI give Dutch, Danish and Kenyan kids a go.

    But making new good players ? Nahh, who cares about that.

  • anujith.a on July 31, 2009, 5:35 GMT

    Totally agree with this one here - 'Those who like their three-hour fixes will still find a four-day game much too long..' there is absolutely no point reducing the number of days in Test cricket. I love both Test cricket and Twenty20 cricket, but for different reasons, so there is no point trying to make Test cricket more like the limited overs version of the game. Ideas like day-night test matches, colored balls or limiting the number of overs are all really bad for Test cricket. Lets keep whats brilliant about Test cricket as is. What we need is more enthralling contests between bat and ball. This should be achieved by better pitches, a two-tier structure and a Test championship. This would mean that those who want to relax for the whole day and watch an absorbing game of Test cricket will continue to love it, while those who want a bit of excitement after work can watch a Twenty20 game and get a 3-hour rush.

  • Abhimanyu_S on July 31, 2009, 5:05 GMT

    Really like the last two paragraphs - good suggestions! But I agree with Homer2007 that we need much better pitches if we are to enjoy Test cricket. All the grounds and facilities (pitch, drainage system, rain-cover, seating, machines for ground-maintenance) need to be standardized. By standardize, I don't mean that the pitches should be the same but they should be good enough to withstand five days of top-class cricket and they should be prepared with a lot more thought and calculation.

  • IPLFan on July 31, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    Why don't the two forms just split into two separate organizations? Why restrict IPL/T20 to just a "window" in the FTP if there is enough demand to expand it to 6 months a year? Let them be run as two separate sports, let the viewers choose what they want to watch and let the players choose which sport they want to play.

  • bradmccoy on July 31, 2009, 4:30 GMT

    the talk of reducing test matches to 4 days always comes from the same people who say test matches are boring because there is not always a result. it's ridiculous. how are we suppsoed to get results if the matches are shortened? test playing nations should be pulling their best players out of 20/02 cricket and saving them for the premier event - test cricket. leave 20/20 as a young man's game, for development and experience at an international (or, in the case of IPL, multinational) level.

  • Sam23 on July 31, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    Test cricket is the ultimate contest between the countries and every thing must be done to preserve the game in its longest format. I agree with Sambit that a two tier structure must be employed with the top 6 or 7 teams playing more of 4 or 5 test series and then rest being relegated - promoted. That would also mean an even contest between the bat and ball and give more teeth to the contest...Another aspect to take care of is to lay down the sporting wickets which would help the batsman and bowler equally. We dont want featherbed wickets like in Pakistan or Sri Lanka which are too slow or low or wickets like in Motera.

    T20 is all fine for its glitz and glamor, but it cannot be termed to replace Tests as the numero uno format. And the best way to arrest the growing influence of T20 over tests would be to find a month long window in the international cricket say in May - June to allow best of international cricketers to play the IPL. That would then give seriousness to Tests ..

  • Homer2007 on July 31, 2009, 4:04 GMT

    Make Test cricket more elitist and still Test cricket will wither and die if they continue to play the game on the roads that masquerade as wickets these days.

    If I have to watch a game on a road, I would rather waste 3 hours of my life watching a game with a definite result instead of spending 30 hours watching a bore fest.

    And that is what Test cricket these days is.. Administrators want to maximize revenues ( gate, TV etc) and so would much rather the Test go the distance. Heck, the administrators at Cardiff did not even try to hide this fact when talking of the type of wicket that would be rolled.

    And then there is the ICC with its own "blue print" for what is a good wicket. The Kanpur wicket gets called for having "excessive turn" when what we witnessed was a tight 3 day contest.

    Deny people a contest and they will divert thier attention to something else.

    T20 gives them a contest in an abbreviated time span. Test Cricket doesnt.

    Good luck then saving Test cricket!

  • SidArthur on July 31, 2009, 3:41 GMT

    20/20 is trailer-trash cricket. Indeed, I would not even call it cricket, and people who watch it don't know anything about cricket and have no taste. It's an incredible bore to watch because it's just so pathetically non-entertaining - it's called the pyjama game as it makes you put on your pyjamas and go to bed. If people want action over everything else, then why not watch baseball. Let Flintoff and co. go and play 20/20 "cricket-baseball" - now there's an idea, the game could be called crickball, or better still - crickbash - they are only doing it for the money. The players don't really give a stuff about the game. If tests die because of crickbash, then fine, that's natural selection. But they won't. Crickbash will lose some its red-hot popularity with the trailer-trash and good taste and truth will prevail. Tests are the "force".

  • pragmatist on July 31, 2009, 3:35 GMT

    Without Test cricket there is no cricket. Twenty 20 is fine and a great tool for proliferation and promotion. Addressing the quality is the key issue for Tests. Two match series are so unfulfilling, as are mismatches. In the eminently sensible two-division approach you suggest I worry for the West Indies. But it would be the solution for Ireland's constant losses of their best players to England.

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  • pragmatist on July 31, 2009, 3:35 GMT

    Without Test cricket there is no cricket. Twenty 20 is fine and a great tool for proliferation and promotion. Addressing the quality is the key issue for Tests. Two match series are so unfulfilling, as are mismatches. In the eminently sensible two-division approach you suggest I worry for the West Indies. But it would be the solution for Ireland's constant losses of their best players to England.

  • SidArthur on July 31, 2009, 3:41 GMT

    20/20 is trailer-trash cricket. Indeed, I would not even call it cricket, and people who watch it don't know anything about cricket and have no taste. It's an incredible bore to watch because it's just so pathetically non-entertaining - it's called the pyjama game as it makes you put on your pyjamas and go to bed. If people want action over everything else, then why not watch baseball. Let Flintoff and co. go and play 20/20 "cricket-baseball" - now there's an idea, the game could be called crickball, or better still - crickbash - they are only doing it for the money. The players don't really give a stuff about the game. If tests die because of crickbash, then fine, that's natural selection. But they won't. Crickbash will lose some its red-hot popularity with the trailer-trash and good taste and truth will prevail. Tests are the "force".

  • Homer2007 on July 31, 2009, 4:04 GMT

    Make Test cricket more elitist and still Test cricket will wither and die if they continue to play the game on the roads that masquerade as wickets these days.

    If I have to watch a game on a road, I would rather waste 3 hours of my life watching a game with a definite result instead of spending 30 hours watching a bore fest.

    And that is what Test cricket these days is.. Administrators want to maximize revenues ( gate, TV etc) and so would much rather the Test go the distance. Heck, the administrators at Cardiff did not even try to hide this fact when talking of the type of wicket that would be rolled.

    And then there is the ICC with its own "blue print" for what is a good wicket. The Kanpur wicket gets called for having "excessive turn" when what we witnessed was a tight 3 day contest.

    Deny people a contest and they will divert thier attention to something else.

    T20 gives them a contest in an abbreviated time span. Test Cricket doesnt.

    Good luck then saving Test cricket!

  • Sam23 on July 31, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    Test cricket is the ultimate contest between the countries and every thing must be done to preserve the game in its longest format. I agree with Sambit that a two tier structure must be employed with the top 6 or 7 teams playing more of 4 or 5 test series and then rest being relegated - promoted. That would also mean an even contest between the bat and ball and give more teeth to the contest...Another aspect to take care of is to lay down the sporting wickets which would help the batsman and bowler equally. We dont want featherbed wickets like in Pakistan or Sri Lanka which are too slow or low or wickets like in Motera.

    T20 is all fine for its glitz and glamor, but it cannot be termed to replace Tests as the numero uno format. And the best way to arrest the growing influence of T20 over tests would be to find a month long window in the international cricket say in May - June to allow best of international cricketers to play the IPL. That would then give seriousness to Tests ..

  • bradmccoy on July 31, 2009, 4:30 GMT

    the talk of reducing test matches to 4 days always comes from the same people who say test matches are boring because there is not always a result. it's ridiculous. how are we suppsoed to get results if the matches are shortened? test playing nations should be pulling their best players out of 20/02 cricket and saving them for the premier event - test cricket. leave 20/20 as a young man's game, for development and experience at an international (or, in the case of IPL, multinational) level.

  • IPLFan on July 31, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    Why don't the two forms just split into two separate organizations? Why restrict IPL/T20 to just a "window" in the FTP if there is enough demand to expand it to 6 months a year? Let them be run as two separate sports, let the viewers choose what they want to watch and let the players choose which sport they want to play.

  • Abhimanyu_S on July 31, 2009, 5:05 GMT

    Really like the last two paragraphs - good suggestions! But I agree with Homer2007 that we need much better pitches if we are to enjoy Test cricket. All the grounds and facilities (pitch, drainage system, rain-cover, seating, machines for ground-maintenance) need to be standardized. By standardize, I don't mean that the pitches should be the same but they should be good enough to withstand five days of top-class cricket and they should be prepared with a lot more thought and calculation.

  • anujith.a on July 31, 2009, 5:35 GMT

    Totally agree with this one here - 'Those who like their three-hour fixes will still find a four-day game much too long..' there is absolutely no point reducing the number of days in Test cricket. I love both Test cricket and Twenty20 cricket, but for different reasons, so there is no point trying to make Test cricket more like the limited overs version of the game. Ideas like day-night test matches, colored balls or limiting the number of overs are all really bad for Test cricket. Lets keep whats brilliant about Test cricket as is. What we need is more enthralling contests between bat and ball. This should be achieved by better pitches, a two-tier structure and a Test championship. This would mean that those who want to relax for the whole day and watch an absorbing game of Test cricket will continue to love it, while those who want a bit of excitement after work can watch a Twenty20 game and get a 3-hour rush.

  • ian_whitchurch on July 31, 2009, 6:40 GMT

    Oh yes, and Mr Sambal ... we both accept that Indian TV and gambling money is at the heart of things. And, sooner or later, India is going to have a team that stinks (and to the touchy crowd in sky blue - relax, it happens to everyone, eventually. Look at this Australian team, for example. Lol).

    When this happens, will they get dropped out of the top tier ?

    I'm not expecting you to answer that,Mr Sambal. After all,by forgetting to mention at any point any of the teams to be culled,you have already proved you have enough moral courage to serve on the ICC.

    But we shouldn't kid ourselves. Who pays the piper,calls the tune.

    Me, I'm not as hung up on the elite;I'm more concerned with the production line that creates new players. I want to see the A tours that let batsmen who got some runs in domestic cricket see if they can bat in radically different conditions. I want a ICC Wanderers XI give Dutch, Danish and Kenyan kids a go.

    But making new good players ? Nahh, who cares about that.

  • LeeroyW on July 31, 2009, 6:42 GMT

    More elitist? That seems to be the same logic as "drink more to become more sober". A two-tier system sounds good at first glance, but think about it more carefully and the flaws are obvious. Cricket is already floundering in a country like New Zealand. Partly due to NZC selling tv rights to sky, partly due to T20 and partly due to the FTP that gives us precious little test cricket. In a two-tier system NZ would be resigned to playing Bangladesh, WI and Sri-Lanka for years. Crowds in NZ are already low enough as it is. Such an itinerary would pretty much kill cricket's already dwindling interest there. There are plenty of ex-pat English and Indians in NZ who fill up the grounds on tours of NZ. Not to mention, Nzers love to play against Australia and will turn out to see. More elitism will just hurt the game even more where it's struggling most. To improve your skill you have to play against the best from time to time. Denying this opportunity is not the way to save test cricket.