July 26, 2010

Give neutral Tests a chance

Despite the poor turnouts, the Pakistan-Australia series was a success, and it serves as an invitation to other English grounds to get behind the concept
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If the bottom line is all that matters, and increasingly that is the case in international sport, then the first neutral Test series to be held in England for 98 years was not an unqualified success. There were too many gaps in the stands at both Lord's and, especially, Headingley for either venue to declare themselves completely satisfied, while the blanket nature of the MCC's Spirit of Cricket sponsorship, though extremely worthy, merely demonstrated how commercially unattractive the concept had been to the game's more regular investors.

And yet, on so many levels, what transpired has been a triumph, and one that deserves to be given another chance in future seasons. It helped, of course, that the cricket was utterly compelling, aided and abetted by a series of subplots - from Shahid Afridi's resignation to the agony of Pakistan's run-chase in Leeds - that helped cement the series in the public conscience in a manner that is seldom possible in the shorter form of the game.

Where were you when Australia were routed for 88? Or, for that matter, when Muralitharan claimed his 800th wicket, or when Warne spun his Ball of the Century? The best Test moments create a whole set of memories, even for those who were not in the ground to witness them, and form part of a wider narrative that enriches the sport in ways that matter more than the material. Lessons will be learnt from this intriguing experiment, and let's hope they will prove to be more positive than was the case back in 1912, when a frustratingly damp summer wrecked the spectacle of a triangular series featuring England, Australia and South Africa.

That Pakistan will be back before another century has elapsed is scarcely in doubt - the chances of international cricket returning to their own country in the immediate future are less than nil, and the relative joyfulness of the team's cricket confirmed that England is their natural home-from-home. The question is, how best can they be accommodated in the future, because compared to the raucous full houses that turned out at Edgbaston for back-to-back Twenty20s, the interest for the Tests was dispiritingly passive, and scotched the suggestion that English audiences will come through the turnstiles for five-day cricket, regardless of the teams involved.

But all the same, 43,000 pre-sold tickets at Lord's is not a figure to be sniffed at, especially when you consider how desperately unappealing this series would have been to the walk-up fans back home in Pakistan. For all the passion that cricket generates in the subcontinent, it is there that Test attendances are at their most critical - torpedoed by torpid pitches, over-zealous policing, and an understandable reluctance to sit on concrete bleachers for seven hours in the blazing sun.

It is often claimed that for several cricket boards England tours are the only guaranteed means of attracting an audience to Test matches, given the continued pre-eminence of the five-day game in this country and the attractiveness of winters abroad for large swathes of fans. But England's most recent tour of Pakistan, in 2005-06, was a frontier too far even for the Barmy Army, as it surely would have been for Australia's Fanatics as well. For that series, the figures for the first Test in Multan were swelled by the PCB's decision to throw open the gates for free, but the attendances for subsequent matches in Faisalabad and, especially, Lahore were poor in the extreme.

That feeds into a separate point that too few administrators seem to grasp. It is a big commitment even for a devoted fan to invest in a full day of Test cricket, and therefore the attractiveness of the venue has to be incorporated as part of the selling point. It is part of the reason why Lord's - with its history, architecture and picnic areas - proved appealing to non-partisan fans in this past fortnight, and why Headingley, with its unavoidable municipal sterility, did not.

New Zealand have got it right in recent years, by opting to schedule their Tests at grassy-banked "boutique" venues such as Hamilton and Wellington, instead of echoey, grey stadia such as Auckland and Christchurch. Such a decision might undercut gate receipts (although there are doubtless fewer overheads at smaller grounds), but it would have no impact on the primary revenue source of a Test match - namely the TV income. In fact, for a sport that majors on aesthetics, it would arguably enhance it. A pleasant, leafy backdrop is bound to be more appealing to the armchair spectator, and sponsor, than barren rows of blank seating.

By playing this series in conditions that offered a balance between bat and ball, the timeless merits of Test cricket were better showcased than they ever could have been had this match been a 600-plays-500 affair so typical of recent contests in Karachi and Lahore

Regardless, therefore, of the tragic circumstances that have forced Pakistan to seek refuge in England for this "home" series against Australia, the lost opportunity to attend Test matches - as opposed to ODIs or Twenty20s - is unlikely to have impacted too dramatically on the cricket-watching public back in Pakistan, not least because England's time zone is well suited to Ten Sports' coverage of the series, with the post-tea session slipping into prime time. And that in itself is critical. Test cricket is still valued by broadcasters - particularly those with multiple sports channels - because it fills schedules for up to five days at a time.

Of course, Sky and Ten Sports have been left with rather a lot of dead airtime to fill in this series, with both games finishing on the fourth day, and the Headingley Test threatening at one stage to be wrapped up in two. Nevertheless, such matches need to be regarded as loss-leaders, because the extravagant ebb and flow in both matches helped reinforce just how good the product can be when given a chance to thrive.

By playing this series in conditions that offered a balance between bat and ball, the timeless merits of Test cricket were better showcased than they ever could have been had the games been the 600-plays-500 affairs so typical of recent contests in Karachi and Lahore. The exploits of Mohammads Asif and Aamer have been thrilling to behold, and inspirational, no doubt, to the gully cricketers of the future, but they might never have been possible on the slow and low surfaces of home.

The necessity of relocation has provided the five-day game with an opportunity for re-invention, and it is one that the MCC is particularly eager to propagate. By underwriting the costs of the series, the club is taking personal responsibility for its success, with the clear intention of hosting more such fixtures further down the line - including, if Haroon Lorgat's latest ICC statement is anything to go by, the inaugural World Test Championship in the summer of 2013.

The creation of a new set of "neutral" honours boards, which now play host to the incongruous quartet of Charlie Kelleway and Warren Bardsley on the batting list, and Shane Watson and Marcus North as the bowlers, isn't merely a nod to 98 years of overlooked history. It's an invitation for future cricketers to come and fill the swathes of blank space. Lord's, more than any other ground in England, believes in the allure of history, and is better placed than any to accommodate the notion of the neutral Test.

The challenge for the rest is to mould themselves to the product, because an appetite still exists despite the apparent absence of an audience. If, as has been reported, the PCB stands to make $2 million from its exiled campaign, then it would not take too significant a bout of horse-trading for future host grounds to secure a more workable share of the spoils. Failing that, what price Derby or Leicester diving in with their own bids to host Test cricket? As long as the pitch is sporting and the TV cameras turn up, the sanctity of the five-day game will not be diminished by downsizing.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AdityaMookerjee on July 29, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    Pakistan Vs England, has been one of the fascinating match-ups. I remember a series played in Pakistan, when I felt that Craig White had been the outstanding all-rounder in the series. And, I got to witness, during that series, a Test Match played at Peshawar. This must be a rare occasion, when Peshawar was chosen by the PCB, as a Test Match venue. In England, a Pakistan Vs England match-up, seems more unusual. One least expects a Pakistan Vs England Test Series in England. Is there a Test match between the nations, at Headingley, during the present series? Pakistan have some new faces, perhaps, in the batting department. Pakistan have the better bowling attack, as is evident, but the two teams have an equal chance in the series.

  • abhilash0799 on July 28, 2010, 18:29 GMT

    Th idea of neutral tests is certainly a good one, but only if the matches are held outside the subcontinent (and the caribbean too). Test cricket in the subcontinent is a slow and dull affair, with conditions too much in favour of batsmen. But matches in england, Australia or even South Africa are truly interesting as they involve a fair battle between the bat and the ball. I think more neutral matches should be held in these countries. It doesn't matter if there are not too many people around to watch the match, there won't be too many even if the match was played in the subcontinent.

  • SnowSnake on July 27, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    I agree with the concept. I would rather have current SL & India series played in England than SL even if there is no audience in the stadiums.

  • AnthoniJi on July 27, 2010, 20:21 GMT

    The only reason there is neutral tests in this case is because nobody wants to go to Pakistan. I honestly don't think this will become a trend, unless of course if other cricketing countries follow the polical path of Pakistan.

  • aahd81 on July 27, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    Well said DanGreen.

    Andrew is spot on about Pakistani people not turning up for Tests in Pakistan. The grounds, the pitches and the settings are usually so barren in Pakistan that the game, nor the scenery makes for good entertainment. Not many Test fans will love run feasts, with both teams batting and batting and batting...I would loath to watch the current India-Srilanka match for example. 600+ runs for Srilanka (declared) and India 100 without loss. Who wants to watch that? England produced some great Test matches, I'm glad we played there...at least our bowlers had a chance. If they'd played in Pakistan Aamer would probably have 4-5 stress fractures by now because you have to put in so much without getting anything in return from the pitches...

  • tfjones1978 on July 27, 2010, 15:51 GMT

    I think that it would be better for cricket if Pakistan matches (& any other team unable to host matches) play in Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and other top Associate countries that have decent pitches, grounds and dont have home problems.

    It will increase the support of the game in these countries. Perhaps Aust vs Pak could have been (& should have been) 3 tests, one in Ireland, one in Scotland and one in Netherlands.

    It would have made the series more interesting and brought in crowds for a developing cricket nation. 3 day warm up match could have been played before each match against Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands (giving each one 3 day match against each of the full members).

  • henrystephen on July 27, 2010, 15:35 GMT

    Actually, crowd figures may have been inflated a bit by Australia's presence. Not only is there a large and fairly noisy Australian ex-pat community in England, but there are plenty of others (English, kiwis, South Africans) who will go along to see the Aussies being beaten! (And this was reflected in the text commentry Andrew!)

  • JimDavis on July 27, 2010, 13:04 GMT

    Andrew, The "Fanatics" are a bunch of tennis loving idiots. They should not be put in that same bracket as the Barmy Army or used as refernce to Australian sports fans.

  • JohnSnider on July 27, 2010, 5:58 GMT

    I watched every ball of the Pak-Australia series and it was captivating, I agree stadiums should be full, somehow many more attractions should be added in the game from sponsors during lunch and tea time and food and entry should be affordable. Lunch should be one hour and Tea half hour to give enough time for other attractions. It is a good idea that ECB/PCB/BCb England Indo Pak IPL type cricket in UK. There are enough fans in England for all these three countries.

  • Hammadraf on July 26, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    I am not sure, if you write articles per request. But I urge you to write your perspective about having T20 tournaments in England between county and Pakistani local teams which includes players from national squad (Since, Pakistan situation is not good at the moment). I am sure it will help Pakistan and bring enormous amount of revenue to ECB by promoting such events and I am sure other countries will join in later as ECB/PCB claim success. Tell them to think wisely :). This method should be tried once! I am sure it will reach to the point where no one has thought of!

  • AdityaMookerjee on July 29, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    Pakistan Vs England, has been one of the fascinating match-ups. I remember a series played in Pakistan, when I felt that Craig White had been the outstanding all-rounder in the series. And, I got to witness, during that series, a Test Match played at Peshawar. This must be a rare occasion, when Peshawar was chosen by the PCB, as a Test Match venue. In England, a Pakistan Vs England match-up, seems more unusual. One least expects a Pakistan Vs England Test Series in England. Is there a Test match between the nations, at Headingley, during the present series? Pakistan have some new faces, perhaps, in the batting department. Pakistan have the better bowling attack, as is evident, but the two teams have an equal chance in the series.

  • abhilash0799 on July 28, 2010, 18:29 GMT

    Th idea of neutral tests is certainly a good one, but only if the matches are held outside the subcontinent (and the caribbean too). Test cricket in the subcontinent is a slow and dull affair, with conditions too much in favour of batsmen. But matches in england, Australia or even South Africa are truly interesting as they involve a fair battle between the bat and the ball. I think more neutral matches should be held in these countries. It doesn't matter if there are not too many people around to watch the match, there won't be too many even if the match was played in the subcontinent.

  • SnowSnake on July 27, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    I agree with the concept. I would rather have current SL & India series played in England than SL even if there is no audience in the stadiums.

  • AnthoniJi on July 27, 2010, 20:21 GMT

    The only reason there is neutral tests in this case is because nobody wants to go to Pakistan. I honestly don't think this will become a trend, unless of course if other cricketing countries follow the polical path of Pakistan.

  • aahd81 on July 27, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    Well said DanGreen.

    Andrew is spot on about Pakistani people not turning up for Tests in Pakistan. The grounds, the pitches and the settings are usually so barren in Pakistan that the game, nor the scenery makes for good entertainment. Not many Test fans will love run feasts, with both teams batting and batting and batting...I would loath to watch the current India-Srilanka match for example. 600+ runs for Srilanka (declared) and India 100 without loss. Who wants to watch that? England produced some great Test matches, I'm glad we played there...at least our bowlers had a chance. If they'd played in Pakistan Aamer would probably have 4-5 stress fractures by now because you have to put in so much without getting anything in return from the pitches...

  • tfjones1978 on July 27, 2010, 15:51 GMT

    I think that it would be better for cricket if Pakistan matches (& any other team unable to host matches) play in Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and other top Associate countries that have decent pitches, grounds and dont have home problems.

    It will increase the support of the game in these countries. Perhaps Aust vs Pak could have been (& should have been) 3 tests, one in Ireland, one in Scotland and one in Netherlands.

    It would have made the series more interesting and brought in crowds for a developing cricket nation. 3 day warm up match could have been played before each match against Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands (giving each one 3 day match against each of the full members).

  • henrystephen on July 27, 2010, 15:35 GMT

    Actually, crowd figures may have been inflated a bit by Australia's presence. Not only is there a large and fairly noisy Australian ex-pat community in England, but there are plenty of others (English, kiwis, South Africans) who will go along to see the Aussies being beaten! (And this was reflected in the text commentry Andrew!)

  • JimDavis on July 27, 2010, 13:04 GMT

    Andrew, The "Fanatics" are a bunch of tennis loving idiots. They should not be put in that same bracket as the Barmy Army or used as refernce to Australian sports fans.

  • JohnSnider on July 27, 2010, 5:58 GMT

    I watched every ball of the Pak-Australia series and it was captivating, I agree stadiums should be full, somehow many more attractions should be added in the game from sponsors during lunch and tea time and food and entry should be affordable. Lunch should be one hour and Tea half hour to give enough time for other attractions. It is a good idea that ECB/PCB/BCb England Indo Pak IPL type cricket in UK. There are enough fans in England for all these three countries.

  • Hammadraf on July 26, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    I am not sure, if you write articles per request. But I urge you to write your perspective about having T20 tournaments in England between county and Pakistani local teams which includes players from national squad (Since, Pakistan situation is not good at the moment). I am sure it will help Pakistan and bring enormous amount of revenue to ECB by promoting such events and I am sure other countries will join in later as ECB/PCB claim success. Tell them to think wisely :). This method should be tried once! I am sure it will reach to the point where no one has thought of!

  • Hammadraf on July 26, 2010, 18:45 GMT

    My only request for ECB and PCB is not to allow their players to participate in next season of IPL instead ECB/PCB should make their own leagues. I have a plan for ECB & PCB that needs to be implemented immediately; this can be only conveyed by you Andrew! The plan is to create T20 teams from both countries from each state or providence: Such as Lahore Badshah's, Sialkot Stallions and many more cricket teams from Pakistan coming into England and competing against English county T20 cricket teams. I have a feeling there will be good cricket (who doesn't want to come look at Shoaib Akhtar v Pieterson or Afridi v Broad and many more) and I can assure you people of England will show up to watch some exciting cricket and meet players personally. This will help both the boards and players as well and nevertheless, especially Pakistan. England is the World T20 champions and once Pakistan was too. So you can imagine the quality of cricket will be played when these two countries talent meet!

  • Hammadraf on July 26, 2010, 18:40 GMT

    Thoroughly, I have followed this Aussie Vs. Pak test series and every bit of it was filled with excitement. According to me there were various winners: runs, wickets and results. Game of cricket has been played with lots of intensity by both teams.

  • on July 26, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    The age old problem you have with the ticket prices is that there's no guarenteeing that dropping them to £10 would've got the 200% capacity increase that would've justified said drop.

    Would love to see more neutral series in England, 40,000 odd Lord's pre-sale tickets shouldn't be baulked at by any means, but I think these games would be better suited at slightly smaller grounds - Bristol, Chester-le-Street etc...

    Follow me on Twitter @bobbybamber - http://www.twitter.com/bobbybamber

  • RomanNoseJob on July 26, 2010, 17:45 GMT

    Andrew, you've noticed two things but failed to tie them together as the central problem that cricket has in the TV era. Compelling cricket is cricket that can end any time in 3-5 days. Cricket matches that fill air time and provide more oppetunities to sell tickets last 5 days. But they're boring, so less people watch, so they need to make sure they last 5 days even more, so they make them even more moring, just in case. The cycle continues. Neutral tests might work, but the underlying problem of flat pitches remains looming large.

  • Gully9 on July 26, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    Great Shout from Javed Jokhio! India vs pakistan in english conditions- would be incredible. With sensible organization I also imagine the ground full to the brim

  • Rakesh107 on July 26, 2010, 16:51 GMT

    DanGreen puts forward my point about the price of tickets for the neutral series eloquently. As a British Indian this indeed was a neutral test series but as a huge cricket fan I was fascinated by some intriguing cricket. I might have popped down to Leeds to cheer on the Aussies (as a neutral or some sort) if the price was right! Miller nails it with: 'the extravagant ebb and flow in both matches helped reinforce just how good the product can be when given a chance to thrive'. Tests come first for proper cricket fans, but the governing bodies need to help Test cricket 'thrive' if this perceived lack of interest is to be believed. Yes grounds are empty-but are people watching at home on the box? Ticket prices need to be lowered especially when supply exceeds demand in the current climate- that's common sense and to get the crowds in (especially in the sub continent), pitches need to give bowlers a chance so we don't have run/snorefests like the one on at the moment at the SSC...

  • Zahidsaltin on July 26, 2010, 16:43 GMT

    DANGREEN has the best comment, I totally agree. For any price more than £15, you will be lucky to have even 4000 heading for stadium.

  • krrish001 on July 26, 2010, 16:23 GMT

    Quite frankly Pakistan would not have been able to dismiss Australia for 88 had they played in their own country, and quite astnonishingly the spectator turnout wouldn't have been much better either. So long as Pakistan don't make pitches that aid their fast bowlers it's better to play their home games in England. And this is coming from an Indian!

  • DanGreen on July 26, 2010, 14:33 GMT

    Bottom line: £30 a ticket. No thank you. Whoever was responsible for marketing and pricing was deluded if they thought that large Asian families would be happy to re-mortgage their homes in order to spend a day at the cricket. £15 for adults, kids go in free if supervised. Pack the place full with a variety of stalls. Charge the stall holders a daily fee. Fill the place up and target sponsorship specifically. There are a number of large Asian restaurants in and around Leeds/Bradford. Face it, Headingley isn't going to sell gallons and gallons of lager at these matches. So alter the bar areas to food outlets - work in partnership to make money in other ways. A fuller ground makes for a better spectacle and atmosphere - get the kids in - after all, it'll be the young Asian kids of today who'll be representing England in 15 years' time.

  • nataraajds on July 26, 2010, 14:06 GMT

    ICC should set up -LIVELY WICKETS in neutral venues like - IRELAND / HOLAND where cricket is getting popular and ask all playing nations to pay test matches there. i am suggesting IRELAND / HOLAND because they may get ODI / TEST status very soon. it will be interesting to see INDO-PAK, INDO-SL AND SL-PACK series on these neutral venues.

  • ww113 on July 26, 2010, 13:53 GMT

    Test matches when they were held in Pakistan used to be really boring affairs.The PCB's policy was to play it safe by preparing batting wickets.It also meant that Pakistan's fast bowlers were for the most part neutralised while its mediocre batsmen managed to infate their batting averages.Playing in English conditions has exposed Pakistan's batsmen but given its bowlers a sporting chance.And although Pakistanis didn't go to the grounds to watch matches,there is a huge TV audience for Test cricket in Pakistan.

  • jackiethepen on July 26, 2010, 13:11 GMT

    Good article by Andrew Miller. I wish he'd had the ear of Chief Executives who seem to want to build bigger (but not necessarily better) stadia. As these monstrosities arise they will create the kind of hostile environments he is writing about. At Durham we still have pretty views of woodland and castle. But for how long? A year at most? He is absolutely right about the attractiveness of grounds. I was amazed by the trees and lawns kept at Lords. I hope further rebuilding doesn't destroy those spaces. it is strange that England of all places, which has some beautiful cricket grounds, should give birth to grandiose 'Test match' stadia fit only for rare Tests. Expensive too.

    There cannot be a comparison between Test cricket and watching a single game of rugby or football. Spectators for Test cricket are spread over five days. Few can afford the cost of tickets/hotels for every day let alone the time. If you add up all the spectators who buy tickets it will easily come to 80,000.

  • mittheimp on July 26, 2010, 12:05 GMT

    30 quid for the cheapest ticket was also very unrealistic! What was wrong with charging a tenner and getting at least twice the crowd?

  • KiwiRocker- on July 26, 2010, 10:54 GMT

    Pakistan had other options such as more familiar option in UAE or even Malaysia however for once PCB made a rational decison and chose England. UK is home to rather large Pakistni expats and Pakistan's T.20 victory was build around fan support. Series between Pakistan and Australia was not successful but very successful. I rate this was best series since Ashes 2005. There was very high quality cricket all around. Bat and bowl contest was thrilling. Pitches were fine and there was tension and drama. End results confirmed that contest was even. However Pakistan will probably claim to be a moral winner.We need more of this kind of cricket. I am uttrely bored seeing Sri Lankan Batsmen pounding pathetic Indian bowling for 500 runs in each match. Talk about non sensical ICC ratings! I hope PCB continues playing in England until cricket returns to Pakistan.! One massive benefit for Pakistan is also development of their batsmen in English conditions compared to flat Pakistani pitches!

  • Taz786 on July 26, 2010, 10:36 GMT

    Pak should consider doing deals direct with some of the venue's in England (With the blessing of the ECB of course) so that each venue get's a test and an odi/T20 that way they could look at doing some sort of deal if you buy a day at one of the test's then you get a discounted rate for the more popular ODI/T20 game etc.

    Let's hope for a tight series between England and Pakistan starting on Thursday.

  • on July 26, 2010, 10:33 GMT

    Great article !. One more thing, playing away from home will also test how good the team actually is. Much has been talked about Australia's 15 wins over Pakistan; but fact also remains that 12 of those wins were in Australia. Had the results being different if Aussis toured Pakistan during that time? who know; may be. Also, I do not agree that only Pakistan needs away venus; many people will enjoy seeing India-SA , India-Australlia , India-Pakistan in England. Being the "home" of cricket, may be England is well suited for these neutral matches. Thank you MCC and ECB for making Pak-Aus series. Next, I look forward to seeing Pak-India (Headingly, overcast conditions please :) india pak series must play in uk....because lot of asian live in uk....they are enjoying this series

  • on July 26, 2010, 10:29 GMT

    Great article !. One more thing, playing away from home will also test how good the team actually is. Much has been talked about Australia's 15 wins over Pakistan; but fact also remains that 12 of those wins were in Australia. Had the results being different if Aussis toured Pakistan during that time? who know; may be. Also, I do not agree that only Pakistan needs away venus; many people will enjoy seeing India-SA , India-Australlia , India-Pakistan in England. Being the "home" of cricket, may be England is well suited for these neutral matches. Thank you MCC and ECB for making Pak-Aus series. Next, I look forward to seeing Pak-India (Headingly, overcast conditions please :) people of uk enjoying this series because lot of asian in uk

  • Cornered_Tiger on July 26, 2010, 9:32 GMT

    Two problems and why the grounds were not packed out - first Lords was mainly on weekdays and didn't include a full weekend and pricing.

    If Pak vs anyone else but ENgland and the lesser test nations (no offence Zimbabwe) for £30 I'm pretty certain you would have packed grounds.

  • KarachiKid on July 26, 2010, 9:18 GMT

    Andrew thats a great piece from you. The test cricket, the way it's played in South Asia is almost dead. Except for India, maybe. These home tests in England for countries like Pakistan should be continued and in line with your assertion that the test venue should offer much more than a typcial stadium setting.

  • Gizza on July 26, 2010, 8:11 GMT

    Following on from my previous post, the non-traditional cities for hosting cricket in India were not brought up in a Test match culture. So Nagpur, Mohali, Ahmedabad, etc. always have poor crowds whoever the opponent (Even Pak and Aus) while a less favoured opponent like NZ brings larger crowds at Eden Gardens.

  • Gizza on July 26, 2010, 8:09 GMT

    redneck makes a very good (unnoticed) point - The crowd capacities at English grounds are a lot smaller than many other countries. English cricket fans of Tests or otherwise ought to ask themselves this question? If Lords was large enough, would 80,000-100,000 people turn up to watch day 1 of a Test match (similar to Man U vs Chelsea games at Old Trafford or internation Rugby games in Twickenham). I expect a reply "maybe" or "probably" for an Ashes Test but apart from that, definitely not!

    New Zealand have essentially adopted a similar strategy to England. By playing on smaller grounds, it looks as if Tests are becoming more popular in NZ. But in absolute terms, far more people go to Test matches in Australia and India. Perhaps even sometimes South Africa. But their stadiums look emptier because they're often twice as big as English cricket grounds.

    Also in the case of India, the traditional centres except for Delhi (Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore?) have large Test crowds.

  • DaddyDickFingers on July 26, 2010, 8:09 GMT

    Why have there never been tri series test contests, like there are sometimes in odi's? Perhaps this could be the way to host more neutral test matches, with one team still retaining a home advantage.

    Also a 4 or 5 match test series between Pakistan and India in England would be pretty epic. Not just for the English/Asian population of the UK, but for the neutral fan from the UK a bit like myself. I would pay good money to see that and to soak up the rivalry between fans

  • MustafaC on July 26, 2010, 7:52 GMT

    As Andy pointed out, the attendance at the test matches in pakistan is much worse than the turnout at Lords and Leeds. Infact, even with a few empty seats at Headingly, it was still a much more positive turnout than what you would get at a Karachi or Lahore test match (unless the entry is free). England is rightly home away from home for pakistan for cricket and when you have more limited overs cricket being played by Pakistan and other neutral countries in the UK, full houses can be guaranteed.

  • foxthecox on July 26, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    Totally agree with idea of staging neutral test in England, one at Lords and another at an attractive venue as Andrew suggests. Also recommend more imaginative pricing policy for tickets, ie reduced admission after tea and lower overall cost of tickets. Wanted to go to Leeds but was put off by 40- 50 pounds entry cost. An India Pakistan in Leicester would have great atmosphere!!

  • neerahi on July 26, 2010, 7:39 GMT

    Great article !. One more thing, playing away from home will also test how good the team actually is. Much has been talked about Australia's 15 wins over Pakistan; but fact also remains that 12 of those wins were in Australia. Had the results being different if Aussis toured Pakistan during that time? who know; may be.

    Also, I do not agree that only Pakistan needs away venus; many people will enjoy seeing India-SA , India-Australlia , India-Pakistan in England. Being the "home" of cricket, may be England is well suited for these neutral matches.

    Thank you MCC and ECB for making Pak-Aus series. Next, I look forward to seeing Pak-India (Headingly, overcast conditions please :) )

  • Joji_ on July 26, 2010, 6:02 GMT

    Just one word from a die hard Pakistani cricket fan: Thankyou ECB !! And Thankyou Andrew!!

  • redneck on July 26, 2010, 4:20 GMT

    a test championship needs to be more than neutral tests staged in an english summer!!!! fine to talk up hosting pakistans home matches for the future but dont peg the test championship, something that test lovers around the world want to see as a prime cause for a neutral test! it should be played in a home ground of one of the 2 competing teams in that test match!!! yes pakistan may need someone to put up their hand to host their home matches but everyother nation should be able to host their matches in any test championship otherwise england get an advantage they dont deserve. you talk up england as the only place where tests flourish, funny by the years end the 5 highest attended tests for the year will be the edan gardens test played between india and south africa back in feb and the boxing day ashes test. with 3rd place probably a race between the gabba, adelaide oval and the waca. not an english ground in site!!!

  • Woody111 on July 26, 2010, 3:45 GMT

    Well written Andrew but I don't think it's a matter of giving neutral tests a chance. They're the only option for Pakistan and that's the only reason the series occurred in England. No boards, countries or teams will ever seek out such events - why would they? For the sake of Pakistan cricket and saving them from forever touring other teams' home countries, 'home' tests in England remain the only option. They will not seek Aus or India out to play South Africa, for instance, but at least in England they have found conditions to suit their style and they deserve to play home tests in this manner. A very well deserved win for the unfortunate Pakistanis. Good luck to you Pakistan.

  • raveekoomar on July 26, 2010, 3:12 GMT

    I have always being vocal for neutral tests other than home and away tests, i previoiusly thought england and australia will be the only tests where neutral series could be held. In any case the article is subtly written but the main points emphasized. I think the ICC should really look into tests like this and start with England first as the neutral series decider. Even a west indies playing new zealand in england will be a good option than go for unresponsive-gone-old-days pace attack kind of tracks there. Even the windies fast bowlers will agree to it. Showcasing everyones skills with the duke ball in cloudy conditions with a reserve 6th day in standby if there is imminent rainfall and giving enough time for groundsmen to clear the decks for a wholesome entertainment match. Plenty of fans of all regions in England so why not go for neutral tests only in England. Also there is good money and even Pak India can showcase their skills in a neutral territory boasting of huge fan base.

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  • raveekoomar on July 26, 2010, 3:12 GMT

    I have always being vocal for neutral tests other than home and away tests, i previoiusly thought england and australia will be the only tests where neutral series could be held. In any case the article is subtly written but the main points emphasized. I think the ICC should really look into tests like this and start with England first as the neutral series decider. Even a west indies playing new zealand in england will be a good option than go for unresponsive-gone-old-days pace attack kind of tracks there. Even the windies fast bowlers will agree to it. Showcasing everyones skills with the duke ball in cloudy conditions with a reserve 6th day in standby if there is imminent rainfall and giving enough time for groundsmen to clear the decks for a wholesome entertainment match. Plenty of fans of all regions in England so why not go for neutral tests only in England. Also there is good money and even Pak India can showcase their skills in a neutral territory boasting of huge fan base.

  • Woody111 on July 26, 2010, 3:45 GMT

    Well written Andrew but I don't think it's a matter of giving neutral tests a chance. They're the only option for Pakistan and that's the only reason the series occurred in England. No boards, countries or teams will ever seek out such events - why would they? For the sake of Pakistan cricket and saving them from forever touring other teams' home countries, 'home' tests in England remain the only option. They will not seek Aus or India out to play South Africa, for instance, but at least in England they have found conditions to suit their style and they deserve to play home tests in this manner. A very well deserved win for the unfortunate Pakistanis. Good luck to you Pakistan.

  • redneck on July 26, 2010, 4:20 GMT

    a test championship needs to be more than neutral tests staged in an english summer!!!! fine to talk up hosting pakistans home matches for the future but dont peg the test championship, something that test lovers around the world want to see as a prime cause for a neutral test! it should be played in a home ground of one of the 2 competing teams in that test match!!! yes pakistan may need someone to put up their hand to host their home matches but everyother nation should be able to host their matches in any test championship otherwise england get an advantage they dont deserve. you talk up england as the only place where tests flourish, funny by the years end the 5 highest attended tests for the year will be the edan gardens test played between india and south africa back in feb and the boxing day ashes test. with 3rd place probably a race between the gabba, adelaide oval and the waca. not an english ground in site!!!

  • Joji_ on July 26, 2010, 6:02 GMT

    Just one word from a die hard Pakistani cricket fan: Thankyou ECB !! And Thankyou Andrew!!

  • neerahi on July 26, 2010, 7:39 GMT

    Great article !. One more thing, playing away from home will also test how good the team actually is. Much has been talked about Australia's 15 wins over Pakistan; but fact also remains that 12 of those wins were in Australia. Had the results being different if Aussis toured Pakistan during that time? who know; may be.

    Also, I do not agree that only Pakistan needs away venus; many people will enjoy seeing India-SA , India-Australlia , India-Pakistan in England. Being the "home" of cricket, may be England is well suited for these neutral matches.

    Thank you MCC and ECB for making Pak-Aus series. Next, I look forward to seeing Pak-India (Headingly, overcast conditions please :) )

  • foxthecox on July 26, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    Totally agree with idea of staging neutral test in England, one at Lords and another at an attractive venue as Andrew suggests. Also recommend more imaginative pricing policy for tickets, ie reduced admission after tea and lower overall cost of tickets. Wanted to go to Leeds but was put off by 40- 50 pounds entry cost. An India Pakistan in Leicester would have great atmosphere!!

  • MustafaC on July 26, 2010, 7:52 GMT

    As Andy pointed out, the attendance at the test matches in pakistan is much worse than the turnout at Lords and Leeds. Infact, even with a few empty seats at Headingly, it was still a much more positive turnout than what you would get at a Karachi or Lahore test match (unless the entry is free). England is rightly home away from home for pakistan for cricket and when you have more limited overs cricket being played by Pakistan and other neutral countries in the UK, full houses can be guaranteed.

  • DaddyDickFingers on July 26, 2010, 8:09 GMT

    Why have there never been tri series test contests, like there are sometimes in odi's? Perhaps this could be the way to host more neutral test matches, with one team still retaining a home advantage.

    Also a 4 or 5 match test series between Pakistan and India in England would be pretty epic. Not just for the English/Asian population of the UK, but for the neutral fan from the UK a bit like myself. I would pay good money to see that and to soak up the rivalry between fans

  • Gizza on July 26, 2010, 8:09 GMT

    redneck makes a very good (unnoticed) point - The crowd capacities at English grounds are a lot smaller than many other countries. English cricket fans of Tests or otherwise ought to ask themselves this question? If Lords was large enough, would 80,000-100,000 people turn up to watch day 1 of a Test match (similar to Man U vs Chelsea games at Old Trafford or internation Rugby games in Twickenham). I expect a reply "maybe" or "probably" for an Ashes Test but apart from that, definitely not!

    New Zealand have essentially adopted a similar strategy to England. By playing on smaller grounds, it looks as if Tests are becoming more popular in NZ. But in absolute terms, far more people go to Test matches in Australia and India. Perhaps even sometimes South Africa. But their stadiums look emptier because they're often twice as big as English cricket grounds.

    Also in the case of India, the traditional centres except for Delhi (Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore?) have large Test crowds.

  • Gizza on July 26, 2010, 8:11 GMT

    Following on from my previous post, the non-traditional cities for hosting cricket in India were not brought up in a Test match culture. So Nagpur, Mohali, Ahmedabad, etc. always have poor crowds whoever the opponent (Even Pak and Aus) while a less favoured opponent like NZ brings larger crowds at Eden Gardens.