Test cricket is dying? Think again. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) announced on Saturday that an overwhelming 86% of fans prefer watching the five-day matches compared to the limited-overs versions, many of them saying Test cricket was the "ultimate" form.
The longstanding custodians of the game wanted to assess the popularity of the longest format against the limited-over versions and put out a survey. Here are its major findings.
What was the MCC survey about?
Titled the 'MCC Test Cricket survey', the idea behind the research was to test the popularity and relevance of the longer format among fans, and whether they had the time and inclination to follow the oldest format of the game.
What were the results?
The survey was carried out across 100 countries with over 13,000 fans participating. "Overwhelmingly, Test cricket came out as the format that interests fans the most, regardless of country supported or age," the MCC said in a release. The results allowed the MCC to conclude that there was a "positive future" for Test cricket based on the review of the survey.
One of the most striking findings of the survey was that an average of 86% of the responders said Test cricket remained their "preferred" format followed by ODIs, T20Is and domestic T20s in that order. "Responders to the MCC Test cricket survey still consider the Test format to be the pinnacle of cricket and the favourite format of cricket to attend, follow and watch, with respondents describing the game as the "ultimate" form of cricket," the MCC said.
That finding may raise eyebrows considering global cricket administrators, including the ICC, have acknowledged T20 cricket is the vehicle that is driving the growth of the game.
Have there been other such surveys?
Yes, the ICC conducted one last year, which said cricket had more than a billion fans globally, and close to 70% (of 19,000-plus people between ages 16-69) supported Test cricket.
Recently, Dave Richardson, the ICC's outgoing chief executive who also sits on the MCC World Cricket committee, stressed that Test cricket was not dying, but merely striving for relevance, which would be sorted once the World Test Championship kicks off in July.
Other key findings in the survey
The MCC said over half of the respondents wanted to watch Test cricket regularly but would still like some improvements:
Addressing the cost and availability of tickets to enable more fans to attend
Increasing access to Test cricket on free-to-air TV
Including half-day tickets to encourage families to attend
Any reactions to the MCC survey?
Kumar Sangakkara, the former Sri Lanka captain who has been on the MCC World Cricket committee since 2012, said that he was not entirely surprised by the results. He pointed out that series triumphs by India in Australia, Sri Lanka in South Africa and West Indies surprising England at home in the past few months have allowed Test cricket not only to enjoy an "incredible" year but also injected enthusiasm among fans for the longer format.
"There's a real opportunity - and responsibility - for us all to cement the future of our superb longer form," Sangakkara said.
Former England captain Mike Gatting, who is chairman of the MCC World Cricket committee, said that administrators ought to listen to the fans' concerns in order to stave off the imposing challenge that T20 leagues and forthcoming tournaments like The Hundred pose. He also pointed out that there was a lot of demand for day-night Tests, especially in Asia, and the administrators needed to capitalise on that.
"Virat [Kohli] has expressed his commitment to maintaining the position of Test cricket at the top of the sport, while off the back of South Africa's one-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka Faf [du Plessis] insisted such matches demonstrate Test cricket is still the number one format," Gatting said.
"When you have high-profile leaders like Virat and Faf being part of hugely exciting series, it shows what Test cricket can be. It is easy to see why the format is viewed as the pinnacle of our sport and we want to see it future-proofed and that could include looking at more day-night Tests, which we can see there is a big demand for, especially in Asia."