March 13, 2013

No easy answers to the question of Test cricket's future

There has been plenty of talk of how to save the game's premier form, but we're nowhere closer to a solution
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A week in Dunedin has left me no clearer about the future of Test cricket. By the time England's match against New Zealand ended in stalemate, any sting in the contest had long been drawn by the lifeless pitch. Even the finale was muted. The players broke for a drinks break during the final session. Was it a pause or a full stop? Eventually the two groups ambled slowly towards each other - a truce had been agreed and everyone trudged off. I momentarily imagined the challenge of explaining events to an uninitiated American.

The revealing aspect of Dunedin was that the game didn't make much sense from behind the glass window of the BBC commentary box. Only when I got down to grass level did I discover the rhythm of the occasion. The ground's capacity was only 5300, most of them sitting in temporary stands. The press box was a tent. The thud of bat on ball had the dull, low-pitched noise that follows from lifeless pitches. The fans were only a few feet from the boundary. Jokes were passed to and fro, banter exchanged. It was very similar to an "outground" in the county championship when a club or school pitch is turned into a first-class venue for a week.

Attempts to "jazz up" Dunedin left a baffling impression. I wonder who, if anyone, benefited from the piped 1970s music that preceded each day's play? Was anyone asked? When the spectators are huddled together wearing winter coats, drinking coffee just to keep warm, I'm afraid the opportunity for glamour and razzmatazz has already been missed. For grounds such as Dunedin, antique charm is the best available strategy.

Yet Dunedin seemed unsure whether to embrace its rural quietness. That is a good metaphor for the state of Test cricket as a whole. It doesn't know whether to stick or twist. Unsure how to adapt, worried about alienating its faithful fans, Test cricket muddles along, hoping a solution will emerge.

There are two polemical columns that can be written about Test cricket. One is culturally conservative, the other economically liberal. The first one goes something like this. Money-grabbing barbarians are ruining the game we love above all others; no one makes a decision based on any motive beyond greed; Test cricket is being squeezed out by the vulgar appeal of T20 and the dull expanses of ODI tournaments; men with a "feel for the game" are urgently required to make decisions "in the long-term interest of the sport"; there is not much time left.

The second column takes the opposite view, praising the benefits of economic innovation and the profit motive. This column instructs the game to look to new markets, engineer a snappier product, invest in better marketing. This version of past and future stresses the contribution of men motivated by business rather than duty. After all, Kerry Packer - whose motives were only "half-altruistic" (and that was by his own reckoning) - helped to modernise and improve the quality of international cricket. The second column will stress that "the conservative blazers" have usually been wrong about what it is good for the health of sport. Did you know, for example, that when professional sport was first broadcast on radio and television, it was assumed that no one would ever pay to watch at the ground? The mass media was expected to kill professional sport. Instead, it made sport what it is today.

Anyone interested in how entrepreneurs can influence the evolution of sports should listen to this BBC podcast, led by the excellent economist and broadcaster Evan Davis. I don't agree with it all, by any means, but Max Mosely, Barry Hearn and Tim Wright make powerful arguments about how sports really evolve.

Over the years I've explored versions of both the first and the second column. But I'm afraid this columnist can no longer rouse the cultural conservative nor the economic liberal within him. Instead, let me list the reasons why I think Test cricket has found it hard to adapt to the modern world, why the argument should not be reduced to a simple polemic.

First, cricket - especially Test cricket - is not really a sport; it never has been. It has more in common with a religion. It is loved, revered, bound up with ritual and belonging. I only really understood this after I'd retired. Expecting rational decisions from people who love cricket is like expecting rational decisions from the Church of England synod. Indeed, it is precisely because cricket's conservatives are so deeply in love with the game that so many commercial opportunities have been left wide open to outsiders, men such as Packer and Modi.

Dunedin seemed unsure whether to embrace its rural quietness. That is a good metaphor for the state of Test cricket as a whole. It doesn't know whether to stick or twist

There is also a fundamental problem with ownership. Who runs cricket, who has the final say? It is easy to talk nobly about stakeholders and the rights of fans, but it is not so easy to translate those sentiments into a practical mandate. The ICC is notionally in charge. But the ICC consists of the sum of its members; in other words, the national boards, who, in turn, must balance the interests of players, sponsors and (one hopes) fans. Above all, they are terrified of alienating the players, who are being perpetually wooed by the Indian rupee.

Cricket's governance is still in transition from the old days when it was run from Lord's simply because it always had been. American sports, in contrast, have long been run according to a very simple business model. Each independent franchise agrees to strong centralised leadership from the NFL, NBA or MLB. It's not perfect, but at least it is clear. Cricket has never been "governed" in such a definite sense. Test cricket is not the only institution facing gradual decline. Newspapers are another. Should proprietors abandon old-school editors with ink on their hands and in their hearts, and throw in their lot with technological wizards with their eyes on the next new thing? Or will preserving the core values of newspapers - trust, reliable reporting and original comment - enable them to endure a passing technological storm? Damned if I know for sure. Do you?

T20 has unsettled cricket in the same way that the internet unsettled newspapers. Suddenly the old product looked static and dated, even if it retained a strong core following. Newspapers have tried joining the web conversation by giving their content away free. They have also tried to protect their business with paywalls. They have, unfairly, been accused of stupidity for doing both.

My point is that it's time to move beyond the idea that every problem has an easy solution. In place of the default position, "They're all idiots", I suggest the assumption, "This is pretty difficult to solve."

Ask yourself: how would you protect, improve and coordinate Test cricket if you were the game's philosopher king? A Test championship? Good idea. But in a league in which every team plays each other equally often, the immediate effect, ironically, would be a higher proportion of low-quality matches. And how would you fit in a grand tradition such as the Ashes into a new timetable of round-robin series?

How about two divisions with promotion and relegation? Again, nice idea, but good luck pursuing the approving votes of those cast into the lower league. And, anyway, cricket cannot have a philosopher king in the first place, only muddle and consensus.

Test cricket's future, I suspect, will owe more to luck than planning. That's why my own agenda is pretty prosaic: to start with, let's have some bouncy, spinning pitches, please.

Former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman Ed Smith's new book, Luck - What It Means and Why It Matters, is out now. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ansram on March 14, 2013, 17:45 GMT

    Make no changes to rules please. Instead play on sportive wickets. The five day format is what makes test cricket interesting and also challenging. Diluting the laws would make test cricket more like LOIs. Test cricket must retain its unique brand value, and cannot and should not be a longer format of LOIs, with no over based limitations. Otherwise novel test cricket concepts like declaration would loose their meaning. 450 overs over 5 days of cricket should produce exciting result oriented matches, if the pitches are not flat roads. Have rules that allow an extra day or overs in case of rain, or try to play at night on rainy days.

  • kentjones on March 14, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    Ed your article is at least acknowledging that test cricket needs saving. Very much like any threatened life species on the brink of extinction, long term strategies must be developed to ensure that the beautiful test game lives on. The starting point must be going back to the ultimate reason for the game of test cricket, which is to have two teams battle it out on the field of play over a period of five days and eventually PRODUCE A RESULT. Yes producing a result is quite critical. Usually the reason why test matches have not produced results (barring intervention of the weather) has been the lifeless nature of the pitches. the various national Boards must ensure that the wickets prepared can and will produce results. That match in Galle recently between SL and BD was a farce, ten tons and yet no result:good for the statitician but poor for the spectator. We must bring the spectator back in the game, and the first step is to have pitches that will give us results.

  • kentjones on March 15, 2013, 15:24 GMT

    @Bishop A draw only becomes exciting when it is the least expected result. When a draw is a commonplace or almost likely event in a test, as is quite evident on some pitches, then 'holding' on for a draw loses its sense of drama and exhilaration and becomes a mere exercise in statistics. Cricket has once been described as "a game of glorious uncertainties", owing to the game's ability to sway advantage from one team to the next, over a day, a session or even a bowling spell and spring unexpected surprises. There is nothing more beautiful in cricket than to watch drama unfold as one team then the other assumes ascendency over the duration of the match and build slowly to finally pulsate into a crescendo of excitement. Such thrilling theatre that can entrap you, flabbergast you and then abandon you with withered fingernails and worn out pants' seats: are undoubtedly reserved for the sporting pitches that are in existence. National Boards, do you part, bring back the sporting pitches.

  • harshthakor on March 15, 2013, 3:56 GMT

    Today twice as many test matches have results than yesteryear.Scoring rates have literally doubled with over 300 runs being scored in an average day.We have had some of the most absorbing contests like the 3rd test between South Africa and England at Lords last year and the 2011 series between South Africa and Australia.What has declined is the general standard of batting and particularly bowling.We need to prepare bowler friendly pitches and again not place restrictions on bouncers.To improve test cricket I wish we could do away with the 20 over version.Above all test cricket is the true version of the game which is even reflected today.We mus have more series with atleast 5 test matches.

  • Bishop on March 15, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    Just want to contradict those demanding more results in Tests...While I agree that no-one wants to see a boring draw, sometimes a draw can be far more exciting than a comfortable win. Just look at the South Africa tour to Australia over summer. The best test by far was drawn. I think it is more accurate to say that what we want are games in which at least two out of the four possible results (a win to either team, a draw or a tie) are possible until the last. Artificially engineering results either by manipulating the pitch or the rules will remove one of the more heroic aspects of this wonderful game...hanging on for the draw!

  • Yuji9 on March 14, 2013, 23:44 GMT

    A further idea towards the concept of Limited Overs Tests regarding 125 overs per innings could be the use of tactical declarations i.e you might wish to declare after only 90-100 overs in your first innings - this frees up time meaning you can add those saved overs to the second innings - i.e - declare after 90 overs in the first then you get 35 added to your second innings - i.e 160 second innings overs to chase down target - the reason people are scared of Lim overs Tests is because we are used to seeing stale ODI's but with points awarded for draws then the contest becomes interesting again - the key is the points system and when incentives are there to take wickets/score runs/aim for results then no matter what the state of the match there is always s'thing to play for - 125 over limit is not idiotic when few teams can bat that long these days - a full day and a quarter is long enough to complete an innings and the idea of saving overs could create more tactical interest

  • Trapper439 on March 14, 2013, 20:07 GMT

    Writers were bemoaning the imminent death of Test Cricket back in the 1950s. It didn't die then, and it won't now.

    Then, as now, the major problem facing the Test game was interminable and boring draws. The difference is that 60 years ago the issue was negative captaincy and batting. Nowadays the main issue (IMHO) is overly batting-friendly conditions.

    Test Cricket is not only the best form of cricket, it is the most interesting sport on Earth. No other sport has so many parameters vying to control the outcome of a match. Pitch conditions, condition of the ball, determined batting stands and devastating bowling spells. I could go on.

    I'm in full agreement with Dashgar and Dark_Harlequin. T20 will find it hard to ever supplant Test in Australia and the UK.

    T20 is merely the Pool to Test Cricket's Snooker. Checkers to Chess. Skins to a Golf Major. Othello to Go. Blackjack to Bridge. Advertisement to Movie.

    Maybe the sport will divide, but Tests will live on.

  • on March 14, 2013, 18:09 GMT

    Absolutely right.Test cricket needs saving.But to do this you need to make test cricket more attractive,it needs to speak to the viewers whilst preserving the traditional beauty and glamour that has made so beloved to us.The first and foremost issue that needs to be addressed is the lifeless pitches that produce nothing but draws THE PITCHES MUST PRODUCE RESULTS.Also test matches need to be made more glamorous by ensuring epic contests such as an annual IND VS PAK series or SOUTH AFRICA AUSTRALIA ENGLAND tri-series.Maybe even PAK VS IND IN AUSTRALIA to put them both out of their comfort zones.

  • WeldonHosten on March 14, 2013, 17:07 GMT

    With benefits such as renewed interest in the sport, attracting more players, spectators and commercial interest, the sky is the limit as to where test match and cricket can go from there. It would be a great idea if the ICC could mandate that at least 1 of these matches be played as part of the ongoing series as a test to see what kind of statistics can be obtained to provide whether or not, this is the way forward. Five days of cricket or any sport for that matter is a thing of the past. The audience to which such sport appealed to is aging and dwindling and does not command the commercial power as that of the younger population which is hungry for an alternative format. One of the reasons why soccer commands such a great following is because of the intensity of the game over the short period which almost always ends with a result.

  • WeldonHosten on March 14, 2013, 17:06 GMT

    * Increase the starting player pool on the batting and fielding teams from 11 to 15 with 11 fielding and 11 batting. * Allow the batting and bowling team to change out any of the extra players that are on the bench to active status at anytime during the game. The benefits: By changing over the format of the game several very important benefits can be achieved for boards and players. A few of the benefits are listed below. * Better attendance due to the fact that a result will be achieved on that day. * Revenue increases through bigger gate receipt and TV rights. * Renewed interest in the sport by fans and players alike. * World wide acceptance of the sport and penetration of new markets. * More lucrative sponsorship deals for clubs and nations playing the sport at the highest level.

    The Result: I believe that the result of such a proposal if implement can only save test match cricket and cricket as a whole in the long run.

  • ansram on March 14, 2013, 17:45 GMT

    Make no changes to rules please. Instead play on sportive wickets. The five day format is what makes test cricket interesting and also challenging. Diluting the laws would make test cricket more like LOIs. Test cricket must retain its unique brand value, and cannot and should not be a longer format of LOIs, with no over based limitations. Otherwise novel test cricket concepts like declaration would loose their meaning. 450 overs over 5 days of cricket should produce exciting result oriented matches, if the pitches are not flat roads. Have rules that allow an extra day or overs in case of rain, or try to play at night on rainy days.

  • kentjones on March 14, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    Ed your article is at least acknowledging that test cricket needs saving. Very much like any threatened life species on the brink of extinction, long term strategies must be developed to ensure that the beautiful test game lives on. The starting point must be going back to the ultimate reason for the game of test cricket, which is to have two teams battle it out on the field of play over a period of five days and eventually PRODUCE A RESULT. Yes producing a result is quite critical. Usually the reason why test matches have not produced results (barring intervention of the weather) has been the lifeless nature of the pitches. the various national Boards must ensure that the wickets prepared can and will produce results. That match in Galle recently between SL and BD was a farce, ten tons and yet no result:good for the statitician but poor for the spectator. We must bring the spectator back in the game, and the first step is to have pitches that will give us results.

  • kentjones on March 15, 2013, 15:24 GMT

    @Bishop A draw only becomes exciting when it is the least expected result. When a draw is a commonplace or almost likely event in a test, as is quite evident on some pitches, then 'holding' on for a draw loses its sense of drama and exhilaration and becomes a mere exercise in statistics. Cricket has once been described as "a game of glorious uncertainties", owing to the game's ability to sway advantage from one team to the next, over a day, a session or even a bowling spell and spring unexpected surprises. There is nothing more beautiful in cricket than to watch drama unfold as one team then the other assumes ascendency over the duration of the match and build slowly to finally pulsate into a crescendo of excitement. Such thrilling theatre that can entrap you, flabbergast you and then abandon you with withered fingernails and worn out pants' seats: are undoubtedly reserved for the sporting pitches that are in existence. National Boards, do you part, bring back the sporting pitches.

  • harshthakor on March 15, 2013, 3:56 GMT

    Today twice as many test matches have results than yesteryear.Scoring rates have literally doubled with over 300 runs being scored in an average day.We have had some of the most absorbing contests like the 3rd test between South Africa and England at Lords last year and the 2011 series between South Africa and Australia.What has declined is the general standard of batting and particularly bowling.We need to prepare bowler friendly pitches and again not place restrictions on bouncers.To improve test cricket I wish we could do away with the 20 over version.Above all test cricket is the true version of the game which is even reflected today.We mus have more series with atleast 5 test matches.

  • Bishop on March 15, 2013, 0:23 GMT

    Just want to contradict those demanding more results in Tests...While I agree that no-one wants to see a boring draw, sometimes a draw can be far more exciting than a comfortable win. Just look at the South Africa tour to Australia over summer. The best test by far was drawn. I think it is more accurate to say that what we want are games in which at least two out of the four possible results (a win to either team, a draw or a tie) are possible until the last. Artificially engineering results either by manipulating the pitch or the rules will remove one of the more heroic aspects of this wonderful game...hanging on for the draw!

  • Yuji9 on March 14, 2013, 23:44 GMT

    A further idea towards the concept of Limited Overs Tests regarding 125 overs per innings could be the use of tactical declarations i.e you might wish to declare after only 90-100 overs in your first innings - this frees up time meaning you can add those saved overs to the second innings - i.e - declare after 90 overs in the first then you get 35 added to your second innings - i.e 160 second innings overs to chase down target - the reason people are scared of Lim overs Tests is because we are used to seeing stale ODI's but with points awarded for draws then the contest becomes interesting again - the key is the points system and when incentives are there to take wickets/score runs/aim for results then no matter what the state of the match there is always s'thing to play for - 125 over limit is not idiotic when few teams can bat that long these days - a full day and a quarter is long enough to complete an innings and the idea of saving overs could create more tactical interest

  • Trapper439 on March 14, 2013, 20:07 GMT

    Writers were bemoaning the imminent death of Test Cricket back in the 1950s. It didn't die then, and it won't now.

    Then, as now, the major problem facing the Test game was interminable and boring draws. The difference is that 60 years ago the issue was negative captaincy and batting. Nowadays the main issue (IMHO) is overly batting-friendly conditions.

    Test Cricket is not only the best form of cricket, it is the most interesting sport on Earth. No other sport has so many parameters vying to control the outcome of a match. Pitch conditions, condition of the ball, determined batting stands and devastating bowling spells. I could go on.

    I'm in full agreement with Dashgar and Dark_Harlequin. T20 will find it hard to ever supplant Test in Australia and the UK.

    T20 is merely the Pool to Test Cricket's Snooker. Checkers to Chess. Skins to a Golf Major. Othello to Go. Blackjack to Bridge. Advertisement to Movie.

    Maybe the sport will divide, but Tests will live on.

  • on March 14, 2013, 18:09 GMT

    Absolutely right.Test cricket needs saving.But to do this you need to make test cricket more attractive,it needs to speak to the viewers whilst preserving the traditional beauty and glamour that has made so beloved to us.The first and foremost issue that needs to be addressed is the lifeless pitches that produce nothing but draws THE PITCHES MUST PRODUCE RESULTS.Also test matches need to be made more glamorous by ensuring epic contests such as an annual IND VS PAK series or SOUTH AFRICA AUSTRALIA ENGLAND tri-series.Maybe even PAK VS IND IN AUSTRALIA to put them both out of their comfort zones.

  • WeldonHosten on March 14, 2013, 17:07 GMT

    With benefits such as renewed interest in the sport, attracting more players, spectators and commercial interest, the sky is the limit as to where test match and cricket can go from there. It would be a great idea if the ICC could mandate that at least 1 of these matches be played as part of the ongoing series as a test to see what kind of statistics can be obtained to provide whether or not, this is the way forward. Five days of cricket or any sport for that matter is a thing of the past. The audience to which such sport appealed to is aging and dwindling and does not command the commercial power as that of the younger population which is hungry for an alternative format. One of the reasons why soccer commands such a great following is because of the intensity of the game over the short period which almost always ends with a result.

  • WeldonHosten on March 14, 2013, 17:06 GMT

    * Increase the starting player pool on the batting and fielding teams from 11 to 15 with 11 fielding and 11 batting. * Allow the batting and bowling team to change out any of the extra players that are on the bench to active status at anytime during the game. The benefits: By changing over the format of the game several very important benefits can be achieved for boards and players. A few of the benefits are listed below. * Better attendance due to the fact that a result will be achieved on that day. * Revenue increases through bigger gate receipt and TV rights. * Renewed interest in the sport by fans and players alike. * World wide acceptance of the sport and penetration of new markets. * More lucrative sponsorship deals for clubs and nations playing the sport at the highest level.

    The Result: I believe that the result of such a proposal if implement can only save test match cricket and cricket as a whole in the long run.

  • WeldonHosten on March 14, 2013, 17:04 GMT

    Test Cricket Redemption With regards to Ed smiths article "No easy answers to the question of Test cricket's future" I believe that test cricket future lies in the reformatting of the game. Over the last century test math has evolved from seven plus days or timeless test, with rest days to a 90 over format condense into five days. The process of saving the game should continue with a view of preserving the game for the future. I believe that one of the ways this can be achieved is by changing the current format of the game. My proposal: * Reduce five days test cricket to one day. * Increase test series to a minimum mandated 7 game series. * Start time should be at noon and should finish under lights at nights. * Have six innings of 15 or twenty overs with each side batting and fielding for 3 innings. * At the end of the 6th inning, the team with the most runs wins. * Play an extra 3 overs if scores are even after the 6th inning, with that special inning determining the match winner. *

  • Nutcutlet on March 14, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    To many who regard Test cricket as some sort of imperial hangover, not worthy of a place in the e-world of the C21, too slow & leisurely to gain new followers from the young, I would say, not so fast! TC has always adapted to the ages as it's gone along. The first-ever Test @ MCG in 1877 was a 4-day match & the first 5-day match wasn't for another ten yrs @ SCG. Over the years many matches have been completed within 4 days & that would seem to be sensible today when national fc cricket in all countries usually comprises 4-day comps. Then the over rate needs addressing: this should be set @100 ovs per day. The limitation of the 1st inns of each side needs consideration, say 130 overs max. The reducing overs will inject pace into the scoring in the latter stages & it would be certain that, provided the full allocation has been utilised by both sides, the 3rd inns wd begin no later than tea on day 3. This regulation may prevent defensive mind-sets & ensure sustained interest throughout.

  • on March 14, 2013, 11:40 GMT

    Anyone who suggests a limit of 125 overs an innings for a Test match is an idiot. The ICC needs to sort the scheduling out, making sure test series are a minimum of 3 Tests, and making sure they have primary of place ahead of t20s and F50 slog a thons. Also making sure that Test teams are properly prepared for a test series. IE at LEAST 3 First Class warm up games before the first test, against good strength opposition. AND - make sure players cant pick ANY T20 tournament ahead of a Test series.

  • py0alb on March 14, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    Why do people insist on saying that interest in Test Cricket is falling, when in fact its never been higher?

    You don't need to do anything to Test Cricket. Just schedule it a bit more sensibly (ie not 2 Ashes series in a row) and encourage boards to continue to produce sporting pitches.

  • Harlequin. on March 14, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    Liking some of the suggestions here, but I'm not liking others. having an overs limit seems to negate the point of test matches so I'm not too fond of that idea. Bowler friendly pitches, definitely - after all, a hundred on a turning/bouncing/spitting pitch will be remembered more fondly than the 8 scored in Galle recently.

    @banglalink - getting rid of T20 internationals gets my vote, it's far too random so franchise leagues can provide exactly the same level of entertainment for those who can't get their head around test/fc cricket.

    @Dashgar - pretty much the same in the UK! The players here worth watching are the ones who want to be remembered for their test match prowess, and even if they didn't, I would rather follow a 4/5 day game with average players than a T20 with the worlds best.

  • SunkenBrush1850 on March 14, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    The Yanks sporting structure is without a doubt the best there is, however it would never fit in, especially in Test cricket. After all the Americans do not play "international" competitions, although most of their cities have a larger population than New Zealand. Cricket outside India would generate a miniscule amount compared to the MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL. Before popularity in the test game I think we need at least a dozen countries able to beat each other on any given (5) day(s). At the moment the gulf is too wide, we know the RSAvNZ result, its whether its an innings defeat or not. The global game needs to be more competitive before we see popularity score. Oh and Dunedin should stick to its quaint and tucked away at the bottom of the earth attributes...its something other international sports dont have...a grassroots feel.

  • Yuji9 on March 14, 2013, 6:13 GMT

    Brilliant article by Ed Smith. Test Cricket requires a Test Championship no question with a round robin series - the 'Ashes' may have to become like other trophies: up for grabs every Test - It could have a limit of 125 ov per innings across 5 days g'teeing 4 completed innings each. The way it could work is by introducing a unique points system in which more points are awarded to wins than to draws and away wins/draws worth more than home wins/draws. Countries would start preparing result producing wickets no lifeless pitches - the trick is to to incorporate the 'series' into this concept and whether the tournament takes 4 years to produce a champion or another way - it almost requires a total breakaway competition with full time Test players committed to the championship and paid thus. I believe a non-batting 12th man is needed in Tests - 4 bowlers in not enough v modern bats and 5 specialists bowlers could balance the contest - need a new Packer with love for Tests

  • FaysalKabir on March 14, 2013, 5:30 GMT

    I think T20 should not be played at international level. International teams should only play ODI and Tests. There should only be a ODI World Cup and a 4 year Test championship. Each team should be forced to play other 9 Teams home and away in a 3 match TEST series. If the top teams want more than 3 test for marque series such as Ashes or Border-Gavaskar series then only the first 3 matches should be contribute ranking points. You cannot go against the market forces and try to control the T20 leagues and if the main motivation for any player is money rather than playing for their country they will find ways to skip Tests. I am sure Tests will survive as you will always have players who are motivated to become the best rather than earning the most.

  • PJ_DEL_BOS on March 14, 2013, 1:51 GMT

    Lately, after reading a number of articles and columns about the "slow demise" of test cricket, I have often thought about the subject. The conclusion is: test matches are long, people don't have the time to follow it as they used to and it hasn't adapted to the changing world. I love Test cricket, but for me, the excitement about test matches is when the ball is swinging in England, bouncing in Australia or spinning in the subcontinent. Sure, I love to see a batsman score a double century, but what I love more is the pressure being applied by the bowling attack from both ends. I would definitely prefer the fast-paced manner of test cricket when wickets are falling at continuous intervals than when the batting side keeps batting for 6 sessions. So my suggestion would be simple: make test cricket a bowler-friendly game, just as ODI and T20 cricket is batsman-friendly- and then see the fast-paced and result-oriented nature of the game rope in more spectators and, of course, more revenue.

  • philvic on March 13, 2013, 23:00 GMT

    Apart from good quality teams and decent pitches I wonder if some structural changes might help: 4 days of 100 overs each Limit first innings to no more than 100 overs Award batting points and bowling points similar to those used in domestic competitions Penalise negative bowling tactics in a similar way to ODIs by using similar definitions of wides. Limit of 5 boundary fielders in first innings.

    This would reward adventure and purpose while not killing the contest after the first innings and still alllow for 4 possible outcomes. points accrued would go to determining test match ranking and so even drawn matches would still provide advantage to the better team.

  • mikey76 on March 13, 2013, 22:50 GMT

    Four day test matches, 100 overs per day. Take light meters out of the hands of umpires so unless its pitch black you play on, after all you have a helmet and chest protector. Get rid of drinks breaks, bowlers can take a drink on the boundary between overs. Boards should get fined for producing featherbeds just as much for producing poor pitches, the match between Bangladesh and SL is a prime example of a terribly dull pitch and five days wasted. Slow over rates can be stopped simply by penalising the fielding team a run a ball. Silly little fines dont work. If it persists then ban the captain for a match. There is no reason why teams cant bowl 17-18 overs per hour.

  • Dashgar on March 13, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    It really is hard to relate to this conversation in Australia. This is a country where success in any other format is meaningless without test success. Test cricket is used to provide funding for other tournaments. Domestic coaches can win the ryobi cup but still get sacked for a poor Sheffield shield. Test cricket will never die in Australia. If the rest of the world stop playing we'll turn the state matches into tests and continue on.

  • SL_BiggestJoke on March 13, 2013, 20:06 GMT

    The only way to save Tests is by making them more interesting and by having more chances of a result than a boring draw. For this, the pitches should be like those recently have been in India.. turn, bounce, seam.. everything! The paceman gets wickets as do the spinners. Depending upon the day, the batsman can score too.

  • cricfan65 on March 13, 2013, 20:05 GMT

    Good to see most posters here supporting Test cricket, with the notable exception of Capt. Meanster, who is well known for his acerbic comments on this matter lol. I think Test cricket will survive, but probably not in its current form. It needs to be shorter in length and with a guaranteed result, maybe like an extended version of ODI ( played out over 3-4 days/ nights ). There is an absolute need to prepare sporting pitches; only then can we see a real battle between bat and ball. T20 provides instant gratification, but no long lasting memories or legacies or real test of skills. I understand the huge financial incentive for T- 20, though I doubt this is sustainable. I suspect most cricketers would prefer to be paid a decent, though not exorbitant amount and have a chance to be remembered as the best by playing Tests rather than make a quick million or 2 in T-20 and then fade into oblivion.

  • Desihungama on March 13, 2013, 18:47 GMT

    Very easy solution. Separate the Test Matches from ODI's and Twenty20 legs in any bilateral series between two boards. Each team plays one another once in two years unlike what India and Australia have been doing. Didn't they just play in the beginning on the year 2012 then why another series so close? That's is what's killing Test Cricket. But I doubt this will happen as mission is to make money and not to promote Cricket. Number 2, countries like Paki, Zimbabwe, Bangla with less effective boards do not have say in matters.

  • prabhukt429 on March 13, 2013, 17:11 GMT

    Scrap the boring t20s .long live test cricket.

  • BravoBravo on March 13, 2013, 16:41 GMT

    ODI is kind of preview of the movie which is Test Cricket. You gotta watch the whole movie after watching the preview. T20 is a kind of a cheap show, a parody of the main event. I noticed that every 3 months, people (sport columnist) initiate the gossip about the potential decline of Test format. If it is on such rapid decline why their is so much debate about it. @Capt. Meanster: Nothing personal mate. You seem like an avid supporter of T20, nothing wrong with that. I respect your loyalty about this T20 format. Everyone entitled to their opinions. But trust me, during all these talk about the potential demise of test cricket, ironically T20 will fade out and eventually go into oblivion. The reason is simple that T20 is made for audience who enjoy batsmen hitting fours and sixes, and bowlers are person non grata (barring a very few instances) in the myopic vision of this format. Test cricket and to certain extent ODI involves a game between bowlers and batsmen.

  • shubham.nishad on March 13, 2013, 16:35 GMT

    As suggested by writer, bouncy and spinning pitches could be a good option to resurrect people's interest in test cricket. Its always a treat to watch a batsman scoring hundreds and double hundreds but it seems dull if a batsman has an easy way to it. While bouncy and bowling friendly pitches will make the task of batsman difficult, but that will make an even encounter and will also create interest amongst the people.

  • Cpt.Meanster on March 13, 2013, 15:35 GMT

    @BravoBravo: Which is why many boards are shortening their test match itineraries by half each year. Except of course the good old Poms and their old enemies, the Aussies. After all it's those 2 nations that began playing test cricket. I think they feel it's in their burden to carry on playing the format. Then we will be seeing an Ashes contest every weekend. That would be enough to drive a mad person more mad. If the impending death of test cricket is a hoax, then all you have to do is come to India and other parts of the subcontinent and hold a public survey. Over 90% will answer ODIs or T20s as their choice of cricket. If you remember well, before limited overs cricket came along, most subcontinental teams didn't play test cricket OR they were really non-competitive. Even the people in those countries didn't care about test cricket. ONLY after the introduction of 60/50 overs cricket did people start to take notice. Of course you always had a few school boys and a dog watch tests.

  • Cpt.Meanster on March 13, 2013, 15:28 GMT

    @RavisPohan: Look, I am a PROUD T20 fan and I will continue to be for life. I do not like your test cricket no matter what you tell me. So don't go on and preach to me what I should be viewing. In fact, I spare myself of the mental torture of viewing a test match for 5 days and catch up with the scorecard or short highlights through my cable provider where all I get to see are the 4s, 6s, and wickets. So it resembles a T20 game in white clothes as far as I am concerned. To me test cricket is a waster of time, for you T20 is a waste of time. It's all just preferences.

  • Clyde on March 13, 2013, 15:23 GMT

    The cricket of Clarke and Arthur is coercive and ugly. All Tests need is a return to respect foir selectors (the captain must not be allowed to be one) and players. If the captain can muster up a win, OK, but cricket is a game of individuals as much as teams. It needs to be ruled by spectators who look forward to seeing so-and-so play, and selectors need to select accordingly. Captaincy is part of the spectacle, not an off-field, pre-game soap opera that insults the intelligence of a audience.

  • naxif on March 13, 2013, 15:17 GMT

    How would you define the enthusiasm and interest shown by people during a series like ashes or in any other rivalry? Or the filled stadiums in India even in test matches? And those who think that we should leave this format should consider the fact that test cricket is the only place where you can judge the cricketing skills of players and the team as a whole. There is no denying that you need a certain specialized set of skills to consistently do well in T20 cricket, but at the end any team can win a T20 match if they get lucky on the given day. Consider the current T20 champions; can we really call them the best cricketing side these days, even in the T20? Certainly not. But we can say that for S.A who are consistently doing well in the test cricket. I know that there are probably just 5-6 competitive test sides but we don't really want this number to increase as long as they play good cricket. Plus the art of real bowling will die if test cricket is no more. No Steyns and Ajmals...

  • BravoBravo on March 13, 2013, 14:57 GMT

    Test cricket is the premier format of the game. It has never been under threat of extinction. The thing which needs to go is T20, just a waste of time and a cheap entertainment. Test cricket will remain there. The thing about dying future of test cricket is just HOAX.

  • Harlequin. on March 13, 2013, 14:11 GMT

    Test cricket is not under threat. The reason it seems to be is that it isn't really growing, at least not at the same rate as T20 has. T20 has been growing massively over the past few years, although I think the tide is now turning a bit and people are getting bored of it. Test cricket doesn't need to pander to new audiences, nor 'market it's product', it is perfect the way it is.

    @Deckchairand6pack - absolutely spot on there mate

  • on March 13, 2013, 14:02 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster What you say is exactly what makes test cricket the best form of the game. Different conditions and circumstances. That is how you define a good or an average player.

    ODI cricket is very enjoyable but T20 is a complete waste of time. How can you tell if it's a good bowler or batsman in a game of T20? They don't get mentally tested at all - they there to slog the ball. That's why so many poor batsman have international caps. Just look at Richard Levi from SA. He should never have put foot on the international stage but one good innings got him playing regular T20 cricket where he failed all the time.

    T20 has a place in the market, a very small place. There is more to cricket than the ball flying all over the park. It's about mental strength as much as physical. It's about who can come out on top over 5 days of battle. It is also the one format where more often than not there is something for the bowlers. T20 is just a load of flat tracks to see who can score more.

  • RavisPohan on March 13, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    @Capt.Meanster: No. T20 is long and boring. Test cricket is longer but far more interesting. Different conditions and longer time frames mean that observing actual skills and how players respond to different situations actually justifies the time spent. For a T20, you may as well just check the scorecard after the match and save yourself the bother of sitting down for hours actually watching it. Also, who cares if nobody outside the Commonwealth watches test cricket? The Commonwealth is more than a big enough audience/market in itself.

  • DeckChairand6pack on March 13, 2013, 13:15 GMT

    This is a non story. Test cricket is going from strength to strength. The dominant Aussies of recent times took it upon themselves the obligation to provide the paying punter with entertainment. And the rest of the world followed suit. Since then, there are less and less draws and a lot more positive intent. There is nothing to compare with the twists, intrigue and sub plots that occur over an all out war lasting 5 days! The Dunedin game was a snore fest, but that happens from time to time as it does in any sport. What it does is give you even more of an appreciation when a good match comes along. Ed, do yourself a favour and get down to Newlands for a test match. The Green Machine will show you what test cricket is about and the beer is ice cold!

  • Cpt.Meanster on March 13, 2013, 12:43 GMT

    I have said this many times on Cricinfo and I will say it again. Test cricket should GO. I mean... there is NO future in the format. It's painstakingly LONG and BORING unless it's played on green tops or dust bowls where teams make ODI like scores and bowl each other out to decide the winner inside 3 or 4 days. But there are too many entities that control the outset of tests. First it's the pitches, and we have seen no two pitches are the same. Pitches in Asia in particular either resemble flat highways OR spinning pit cobras. On the other side of the equation, we have green gardens or trampoline decks. It's also a format with a heavy dependence on the weather. Last but not least, the most powerful board - the BCCI does NOT care about test cricket. It's pretty obvious if you look at the FTP for the next 2 years. Not many people are interested or understand about test cricket outside the Commonwealth. T20 is the future and the way to go for the sport.

  • creekeetman on March 13, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    test cricket is the easiest thing to fix, that is if those with the power were actually serious about fixing it... first of all create two divisions. poor teams like zim, ban, sl, wi and nz for instance would be in the second division, and in the top division we will have oz, ind, pak, sa and eng. every couple years the top team in division two will replace the bottom team in division one. another fix for test cricket would be to set standards for pitches, making them even for batters and bowlers.. unlike the recent ones for instance in the tests in galle and dunedin. if pitches like those are produced then fine the home cricket board, bet it never happens again.

  • py0alb on March 13, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    Test Cricket will survive, its not really under threat in any meaningful sense. There are enough fans and enough players and enough administrators enthusiastic about the format to ensure there will always be some form of test cricket played for the foreseeable future.

    The pertinent question is whether world cricket will maintain a united entity. In 10 years time, will the same organisation still be running all three formats of the game? Will there still be players who play in all three format? Will the same countries place similar emphasis on the different formats.

    I have a feeling this may not be the case. T20 will drift one way, Test cricket will drift another with the schedules now completely overlapping rather than interwoven, with ODIs falling through the gap, and players may be forced to specialise in one or the other early in their careers.

    Trying to predict how this landscape will look is a difficult task, but the start of the separation is already becoming apparent.

  • py0alb on March 13, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    Test Cricket will survive, its not really under threat in any meaningful sense. There are enough fans and enough players and enough administrators enthusiastic about the format to ensure there will always be some form of test cricket played for the foreseeable future.

    The pertinent question is whether world cricket will maintain a united entity. In 10 years time, will the same organisation still be running all three formats of the game? Will there still be players who play in all three format? Will the same countries place similar emphasis on the different formats.

    I have a feeling this may not be the case. T20 will drift one way, Test cricket will drift another with the schedules now completely overlapping rather than interwoven, with ODIs falling through the gap, and players may be forced to specialise in one or the other early in their careers.

    Trying to predict how this landscape will look is a difficult task, but the start of the separation is already becoming apparent.

  • creekeetman on March 13, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    test cricket is the easiest thing to fix, that is if those with the power were actually serious about fixing it... first of all create two divisions. poor teams like zim, ban, sl, wi and nz for instance would be in the second division, and in the top division we will have oz, ind, pak, sa and eng. every couple years the top team in division two will replace the bottom team in division one. another fix for test cricket would be to set standards for pitches, making them even for batters and bowlers.. unlike the recent ones for instance in the tests in galle and dunedin. if pitches like those are produced then fine the home cricket board, bet it never happens again.

  • Cpt.Meanster on March 13, 2013, 12:43 GMT

    I have said this many times on Cricinfo and I will say it again. Test cricket should GO. I mean... there is NO future in the format. It's painstakingly LONG and BORING unless it's played on green tops or dust bowls where teams make ODI like scores and bowl each other out to decide the winner inside 3 or 4 days. But there are too many entities that control the outset of tests. First it's the pitches, and we have seen no two pitches are the same. Pitches in Asia in particular either resemble flat highways OR spinning pit cobras. On the other side of the equation, we have green gardens or trampoline decks. It's also a format with a heavy dependence on the weather. Last but not least, the most powerful board - the BCCI does NOT care about test cricket. It's pretty obvious if you look at the FTP for the next 2 years. Not many people are interested or understand about test cricket outside the Commonwealth. T20 is the future and the way to go for the sport.

  • DeckChairand6pack on March 13, 2013, 13:15 GMT

    This is a non story. Test cricket is going from strength to strength. The dominant Aussies of recent times took it upon themselves the obligation to provide the paying punter with entertainment. And the rest of the world followed suit. Since then, there are less and less draws and a lot more positive intent. There is nothing to compare with the twists, intrigue and sub plots that occur over an all out war lasting 5 days! The Dunedin game was a snore fest, but that happens from time to time as it does in any sport. What it does is give you even more of an appreciation when a good match comes along. Ed, do yourself a favour and get down to Newlands for a test match. The Green Machine will show you what test cricket is about and the beer is ice cold!

  • RavisPohan on March 13, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    @Capt.Meanster: No. T20 is long and boring. Test cricket is longer but far more interesting. Different conditions and longer time frames mean that observing actual skills and how players respond to different situations actually justifies the time spent. For a T20, you may as well just check the scorecard after the match and save yourself the bother of sitting down for hours actually watching it. Also, who cares if nobody outside the Commonwealth watches test cricket? The Commonwealth is more than a big enough audience/market in itself.

  • on March 13, 2013, 14:02 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster What you say is exactly what makes test cricket the best form of the game. Different conditions and circumstances. That is how you define a good or an average player.

    ODI cricket is very enjoyable but T20 is a complete waste of time. How can you tell if it's a good bowler or batsman in a game of T20? They don't get mentally tested at all - they there to slog the ball. That's why so many poor batsman have international caps. Just look at Richard Levi from SA. He should never have put foot on the international stage but one good innings got him playing regular T20 cricket where he failed all the time.

    T20 has a place in the market, a very small place. There is more to cricket than the ball flying all over the park. It's about mental strength as much as physical. It's about who can come out on top over 5 days of battle. It is also the one format where more often than not there is something for the bowlers. T20 is just a load of flat tracks to see who can score more.

  • Harlequin. on March 13, 2013, 14:11 GMT

    Test cricket is not under threat. The reason it seems to be is that it isn't really growing, at least not at the same rate as T20 has. T20 has been growing massively over the past few years, although I think the tide is now turning a bit and people are getting bored of it. Test cricket doesn't need to pander to new audiences, nor 'market it's product', it is perfect the way it is.

    @Deckchairand6pack - absolutely spot on there mate

  • BravoBravo on March 13, 2013, 14:57 GMT

    Test cricket is the premier format of the game. It has never been under threat of extinction. The thing which needs to go is T20, just a waste of time and a cheap entertainment. Test cricket will remain there. The thing about dying future of test cricket is just HOAX.

  • naxif on March 13, 2013, 15:17 GMT

    How would you define the enthusiasm and interest shown by people during a series like ashes or in any other rivalry? Or the filled stadiums in India even in test matches? And those who think that we should leave this format should consider the fact that test cricket is the only place where you can judge the cricketing skills of players and the team as a whole. There is no denying that you need a certain specialized set of skills to consistently do well in T20 cricket, but at the end any team can win a T20 match if they get lucky on the given day. Consider the current T20 champions; can we really call them the best cricketing side these days, even in the T20? Certainly not. But we can say that for S.A who are consistently doing well in the test cricket. I know that there are probably just 5-6 competitive test sides but we don't really want this number to increase as long as they play good cricket. Plus the art of real bowling will die if test cricket is no more. No Steyns and Ajmals...

  • Clyde on March 13, 2013, 15:23 GMT

    The cricket of Clarke and Arthur is coercive and ugly. All Tests need is a return to respect foir selectors (the captain must not be allowed to be one) and players. If the captain can muster up a win, OK, but cricket is a game of individuals as much as teams. It needs to be ruled by spectators who look forward to seeing so-and-so play, and selectors need to select accordingly. Captaincy is part of the spectacle, not an off-field, pre-game soap opera that insults the intelligence of a audience.