May 4, 2014

We need a think tank for Test cricket

There can be greater competitiveness in five-day cricket if only the ICC spends some time thinking about long-term solutions for the game

As winter bears down on Australia and football news abounds, it was surprising to hear cricket - especially the Test version - flooding the news with reports of the national team regaining the No. 1 ranking. It was even more surprising to hear the captain, Michael Clarke, say: "I don't think I've had a more satisfying day or feeling in my career."

It's not that I don't think Clarke should be pleased with the achievement. But I would have thought the events of December 17 and March 5 would have brought more satisfaction. Those were the dates when Australia regained the Ashes in Perth and clinched the series against South Africa in Cape Town.

Surely winning on the field by defeating an opponent in a hard-fought battle means more than a computer clicking over to confirm a ranking?

That thought led me to mull over matters like the World Test Championship and other considerations for the longer game.

With the battle for No. 1 in Test cricket now more evenly contested than when first West Indies and then Australia completely dominated the game, it's the ideal time to introduce a world Test championship. The fact that such a tournament has languished as a result of minimal television interest is further condemnation of an administration that lacks both credibility and foresight.

No greater expert on the matter than media magnate Kerry Packer, who in the late 1970s disrupted cricket to eventually gain the rights to televise Australian cricket, once implored Rugby League officials: "Never let a media company run your sport." If the ICC marketing men can't put together an attractive television package for a world Test championship then they are either not trying or their selling credentials are worse than mine.

Instead of bickering over power and how the money will be split, it would be more productive if the ICC initiated a think-tank on Test cricket. In addition to coming up with a feasible format for a world Test championship, ideas on how to revitalise the game - like how best to fast-track day-night Tests and improve the competitiveness of the bottom half of the competition - could be kicked around.

It's interesting to hear players of the calibre of Clarke and Kevin Pietersen say they are not sold on day-night Tests. During Packer's World Series Cricket, played more than 35 years ago, the Super Tests were played at night. I enjoyed playing those games. The time frame allowed you to avoid the heat of the day and was more conducive to large attendances, but the one downside was the ball. Finding the right colour and durability is the key to day-night Tests. That and ensuring you don't play matches at venues where there's likely to be heavy dew.

On the matter of greater competitiveness, the first priority is to ensure West Indies get going again. When playing well they are one of the top draw cards, and Test cricket can't afford to have them languishing.

While I have been critical of both Bangladesh and Zimbabwe's Test status, it's not likely to change under the current regime. So in order to maintain interest in both countries and provide a wider scope for venues in the period between May and September, why not merge them to make a more competitive Test side?

And if the ICC really wants to create a pathway for the Associate nations then select a combined side from the stronger affiliates, like Ireland, Netherlands and Afghanistan. In addition to providing incentive and widening the player production pool, this will also add venue options for Test cricket at a time of year when the choice is limited.

When Clarke was expressing reservations about day-night Tests he cited the competitive nature of some recent matches. That's indisputable, but those exciting contests are far too infrequent and mainly played among the same few teams.

Test cricket has to be nurtured and fostered, not just left to tread water while the officials concentrate on short-term choices designed to fill the coffers.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 9, 2014, 5:22 GMT

    @gerry_the_merry : if Kerry Packer would to start a break away league today, it would not be in Australia, any business man would spend his marketing money and effort in a market with maximum returns and the reality of today is Australia and England are no longer the biggest money making locations for Cricket. Talent is no longer in abundance in West Indies. Truth today is IPL, more spinners, smaller grounds, more runs, T20's. Is that good for the game, not as per Ian Chappell, but he is old school and thinks that money comes after the game, truth is money and game go hand in hand, without money, players will not play, every one is professional in cricket now. So market and change the game as per where the Money is. I like the thought process of @flickspin, who has put in more effort and thinking than Ian Chappell above.

  • Dummy4 on May 7, 2014, 11:41 GMT

    There should be a test championship but it should be No. 1 test team V/s Rest of the world. It should be played in the home country of No.1 test team and should be of at least 3 tests Every 2 yrs.

    The Rest of world players could also be selected from batting and bowling rankings.

    I feel it is a workable solution.

  • dan on May 6, 2014, 6:09 GMT

    about the southern hemisphere vs northern hemisphere was set up 10-15 years it would of been the greatest games cricket ever

    the northern hemisphere would have had this team

    1v sewag(ind)2 m vaughn(eng)3 r dravid(ind)4 s tendilkar(ind) 5 b lara(w.i)6 i ul haq(pak)7 k sangakarra(s.l)wk,8 s aktar (pak),9 w akram(s.l), 10 m murilidaran(s.l), 11 s malinga( s.l)

    the southern hemisphere would have had this team

    1 m hayden(aus), 2 g kirsten(s.a),3 r ponting(aus), 4 j kallis(sa), 5 s waugh(aus),6 s fleming(nz),7 a gilchrist(aus)wk,7 s warne(aus),8 s bond (nz),9 a donald (sa), 10 g macgrath

    players would see it as honor to play, imagine scoring 100 or taking 5 wickets it would be a career highlight.

    you would probably need 6 days to play the test match,

    it would put heaps of money in the icc bank account as it would be shown around the world, i believe the quality of the match would go down in history as some of the best test ever played

    im sure my proposal would be a sucess

  • dan on May 6, 2014, 5:44 GMT

    i have another idea to promote test cricket and that is to have a all star series between the southern hemisphere & the northern hemisphere.

    i believe it would be good as state of origin in rugby league or the east vs west all star game in the nba basketball

    i would have a 3 match test series every 5 years, and the games alternate between countries, 1 year england, 5 years later the west indies and so on

    the southern hemisphere are aus, s.a, n.z and zim

    the northern hemisphere are eng,ind,pak, s.l.l ban and w.i

    these are the teams

    southern hemispere

    1d warner(aus),2m guptil(nz),3 h amla(sa),4 m clarke (aus) capt,5 ab de villers (sa)wk,6 r taylor (nz),7 s smith (aus),8 m johnson(aus), 9 n lyon (aus) 10d steyn (sa), 1 v phillander (sa)

    northern hemisphere

    1 a cook(eng),2 c gayle(wi),3 c pujura(ind),4k sangakarra(sl)wk,5s chanderpaul(w.i),6m jayawardne(sl)7 v kohli(ind), 8 s broad(eng)9 s ajdmal(pak),10 r aswin(ind)11 j anderson (eng),

    players would would be honored to play

  • Jim on May 5, 2014, 23:33 GMT

    Zimbladesh? I hope not. Mighty difficult to sort out where the home matches will be played as well. If one is going to go down that path, you might as well create Irelistan and the New Indies, possibly the Scotherlands as well.

    If we want to make Test cricket more popular, have it at a time of day when people can actually go. Try starting the matches on a Saturday rather than on a Thursday...

  • Dummy4 on May 5, 2014, 17:38 GMT

    Gerry the merry man is wrong about fast bowling being the most attractive item of cricket. These days the spin bowlers have taken their game to a new level, and is now dominating the game. With bigger and more 'powerful' bats the fast bowlers are more likely to get plastered over the boundary more often than before. The question is how do they take their fast bowling to the next level? Is their a limit to how much 'brute force' a bowler can get out of fast bowling?

    As for the ball for day-night test, a bowl that glows in the dark (based on pigments use to dye the ball) could solve the problem.

    And to Ackwardhid, the reason that Ian loves the West Indies is the same reason everybody else loves them; we play with sunshiny rhythm -- soca and reggae rhythm -- we bring fun to the game. Who do you think the crowds would prefer to see? The Bangladeshis or the West Indians?

  • dan on May 5, 2014, 10:13 GMT

    continued from past post:

    the draw is rigged to help each group

    the middle nations like new zealand would play sri lanka, west indies, bangladesh & zimbabwe 3 times in 10 years with a minimum of 4 test

    new zealand would play the top nations like australia, south africa, india, england & pakistan 2 times in 10 years with a minimum of 3 test

    new zealand would play the lesser nation 2 times in 10 years with a minimum of 2 test

    and the lesser nations like ireland would play the top nations like australia,south africa,england,india & pakistan and 1 time in 10 years with a minimum of 2

    ireland play the middle teams like sri lanka,bangladesh,west indies zimbabwe & new zealand, 2 times in 10 years with a minimum of 2 test

    and ireland play uae, kenya, afghanistan,nepal, netherlands and namibia 3 times in 10 years

    the is rigged so the teams mainly against teams similar to thier ability, which would for a intresting team of the decade championship where every game counts

  • dan on May 5, 2014, 9:55 GMT

    with the team of the decade i would rig the draw so the top teams play the top teams the most, the middle teams play the middle teams the most and the lesser teams play the lesser teams the most

    the draw would look like this

    top teams: australia, south africa, england, india & pakistan

    middle teams: new zealand,west indies, sri lanka, bangladesh & zimbabwe

    lesser teams: uae, ireland, kenya,afghanistan, nepal, netherlands & namibia

    australia plays the top nations south africa, india, england & pakistan 3 times in 10 years with a minimum of 4 test per series

    australia plays the middle teams new zealand,west indies, sri lanka, bangladesh & zimbabwe 2 times in 10 years with a minimum of 3 test

    australia plays the lesser nations 1 time in 10 years with a minimum of 2 test,

    i know you thoughts on the middle and lesser nations playing test, but i disagree and dont see the harm in playing these nations once in 10 years big deal if they get beaten in 4 days, the game is slowly growing

  • GV on May 5, 2014, 8:13 GMT

    Good article. But misses some key marketing points. 1) To market any product, the product design itself needs to be rid of flaws. For instance, pitches, poor fast bowling resources, two-test series receiving poor response, step motherly treatment even from players who miss tests to play and prolong IPL etc. Remember Kerry packer filled up his teams with great pacemen, not spinners. 2) Prize money - there is no effort which is worthwhile without prospects of rewards. Right now the payoff is an increasingly probable sit-out of lucrative IPL style tourneys. Instead put a $20m prize money for ICC #1 team every year. 3) Add a bit of marketing glitz of various hues as appropriate to market Tests - remember Packer's marketing. Right now, all focus is on players, not the matches.

    With these changes, I am confident that Test Cricket will quickly move up to the premier position that it deserves. Other things like too many Bangladesh and SL matches will take care of itself.

  • dan on May 5, 2014, 6:35 GMT

    i forgot to give points for a draw, teams would get 2 points per draw.

    what the points would do is

    thier is an incentive for captains to go for out right wins,( i have not seen a outright win in years), say a team is 7 down on day 4 both teams will have lots to play for the team going for the win will bring the field up trying to take wickets, the team trying to last to day 5 will be doing everything in thier power to survive.

    i dont like first innings points as teams will bat till thier 700 runs and every game is a draw.

    maybe my points system isnt very good, maybe you should get more points for a win

    maybe you might get 6 points for an outright win,and 5 points for a innings win and 4 points for a win, 2 points for a draw and 1 point for a loss that 4 innings and 5 days

    im sure that the icc with the help of ex cricketers to come up with a better system.

    by having points it will give captains plenty to think about and thier will be games within a game

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