Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket.
All quotes and "facts" in this article are made up, but you knew that already, didn't you?
The nameless man again sat at the board table with his colleagues. The optimisation of cricket was not going as smoothly as had been anticipated.
"I still think we made the right move," said the man in the ill-fitting suit. "Test cricket was the past. We're not in a rosy position now, but who knows how much worse it would be if we still had the same overkill in the fixture lists."
The fat-necked man with the straining collar concurred. "It's the market that's changed," he said. "Look at all the top-rated sports events and you see they're the biggest, most high-profile match-ups. No one's interested in the lesser fixtures any more. They don't have time for them. They want the football World Cup final, the Super Bowl, or to hell with it."
"I don't know," said the nameless man. "I feel we've taken a wrong turn. Test cricket gave structure to our sport. Everything else was built on that."
"You can't argue with the numbers," countered Fat Neck. "Tests were dying. We carried out euthanasia."
The nameless man bridled and allowed his emotions to drive his words. "Well, the numbers say the game's flagging now. We've not lost a handful of Test fans. We're losing the audience for shorter formats too. You thought that would grow once we'd cut Test cricket."
"I think it's a work in progress," said the man in the ill-fitting suit. "We started optimising the sport and we haven't finished yet."
The nameless man was puzzled. "We haven't?"
"No, we haven't. We've changed the shape of the game, but we need to optimise what we have now created. There's no reason why cricket should function exactly as it did before, when it's actually drastically different. We need to think about what we've got and consider how we can present it to sports fans in the most appealing way. I think that's where we're falling down."
"Like I say," said Fat Neck. "It's all about the big match-ups now. We cut Tests for the right reasons, but there's more we should do. There are still too many games that nobody really cares about, and not enough that people do care about."
"We can't lose another format," said the nameless man.
"No, we can't," agreed the man in the ill-fitting suit. "Besides, Twenty20 and ODIs are roughly equal in terms of overall viewing figures."
"Well, what matches are weakest then?" asked Fat Neck. "There must be something the least popular games have in common. There has to be a reason why people aren't watching them in greater numbers."
"Funny you should say that," said the man in the ill-fitting suit, "but I happen to have a list of the 25 least popular matches over the last two years. It makes for very interesting reading."
Copies of the document were passed around. When the nameless man received his, he scanned the page quickly. There wasn't much to take in. It was basically just a list of fixtures with TV viewing figures next to them. Certain words had been underlined to highlight how often they appeared. It was obvious that this document wasn't meant to help people who would be making a decision; it was justifying a decision that had already been made.
The nameless man looked up, sorrowfully, knowing what it meant. Everyone knew what it meant. The man in the ill-fitting suit didn't even bother to explain. "The next stage of the optimisation process means that a few of us have got some bad news to deliver," he said. Then, looking directly at the nameless man, he added: "I've booked you on a flight to Auckland."
Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket.