Dean Jones has predicted the demise of Test cricket within 7-10 years unless something is done in the short term about the format of the game to rekindle public interest. He cited the lack of interest in Asia for the longer version as the basis of his belief.
“The bottom line is that if Asia doesn’t like it then Test cricket is finished. People say ‘I don’t care what Asia says’ – I get that from our fans. The bottom line is we already got it when the West Indies sent over a very average team and their six best players played in the BBL. So they prefer to play T20 instead of Test cricket.Is that what we want?”
According to Jones, barring tests in Australia and England, there isn’t much public interest in test cricket, as evidenced by the sparse crowds for the longer version of the game in Asia and elsewhere. To reignite the passion for test cricket in Asia, he suggested the introduction of a test world cup along the lines of the now shelved Test championship.
“What do these Test series mean? They mean nothing. I think we need a Test World Cup. We need meaning and purpose behind Test cricket. The future tours program will be finished by 2019, 2020 we will surely have to have a World T20, so that means a Test World Cup could be held in 2021”, he said. Along with this he also suggested trimming the length of matches to four days which would be better to capture the attention of the audience watching the games on TV.
How effective these suggestions would be is anybody’s guess. However, one should bear in mind that although such championship exists in the longer form of the domestic game like the Ranji Trophy, Sheffield Shield and the English County Championship in almost every country, the public response to those games is nowhere near that to the domestic T20 leagues like the IPL and the BBL. Even format changes like introduction of day-night cricket, two-tier system and trimming the duration have had little effect on their popularity.
However, Test cricket appears to be on a better wicket compared to its domestic counterparts. Jones’ apprehension with respect to international test cricket seems unfounded when the results of the past year are considered. The year 2016 was among the very best in Test cricket, with only 7 out of 47 test matches played ending in draws. This means that almost 87% of the games ended in a result and a fall in the number of dull draws which was the case in the past few years. Such results have brought in crowds to the stadia and audience to the TV sets.
While there is a widely held notion that the sovereignty of test cricket is suffering because of T20 cricket, one cannot ignore the contribution of T20s to test cricket. The shorter format may have affected the temperament and techniques of most players, but has resulted in bringing greater excitement to the game. Captains often are more aggressive these days with field placing and batsmen are more adventurous in the aftermath of T20 cricket. Whatever the authorities decide, for the fans, It would be exciting to witness such an evolution of test cricket in its battle for co-existence with T20 and ODI cricket.