It may soon be stumps for Test Cricket

Ravi Nyayapati 

India recently decimated Sri Lanka in their own backyard in a highly predictable and outrageously one-sided Test series. Although an expected whitewash, the result did not embarrass the hosts because it was a foregone conclusion.

The gravity of the outcome was comfortably accepted.

The question remains – why put up such a pre-determined one-sided contest?

The only good thing to come out of such contests is team records for history books and individual records for personal glory.  It does nothing to improve the game.

Declining interest

Since the introduction of T20, the shortest form of Cricket, interest in Test Cricket has taken an unsurprising decline. Numbers attending games have dwindled and there is barely any TV audience. The few remaining loyalists still treasure a good Test, and the excitement and variety of each session of the five days.

The Indian example

India’s recently concluded Test series is very good example of why this format of Cricket risks extinction. The ongoing series between England and woeful West Indies, currently represented by a bunch of schoolboys, is making matters even worse.

The root cause is clear-cut.

Firstly, there is a select audience for five-day games. It serves those that value the core qualities of elegant batting, the imperturbable effort to preserve wickets, the laborious bowling spells, the scorching fielding duties and importantly the mentally challenging perseverance to fight until the close of day five.

Secondly, when none of these virtues prevails, and matches finish inside of three days, interest is naturally lost.

One can argue a series win, especially an overseas tour, is cause for celebration.   However, the story is not so much a case of winning a Test match or the series – Test cricket should be about testing the players and their respective team for superiority.

ICC should be decisive

The solution is with the International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport’s ruling body.  They have sat on the fence for years on perhaps the most sensible solution.

It is high time that a Two-tier system is introduced in Test match cricket. Currently, India, Australia, England and South Africa are the top Test teams. They should play with each other. Anyone ranked lower need to earn the right to play the top four teams.

It sounds very simple because it is very simple.

Imminent death

The death of Test cricket appears imminent until there is evidence of true competition. The only countries where Test cricket draws any decent crowd are India, Australia and England. Bangladeshi stadiums pull crowds only because they are still revelling in the glory of their recent Test status.

Ireland and Afghanistan are the latest to gain Test status, although neither team has debuted in the Test arena.

Two-Tier format

In May 2016, the ICC announced the evaluation of a Two-Tier format.

The format would see the top seven Test-playing nations under Tier-1, competing in two bilateral series with each other over a four-year period, one-home and-one-away.

Tier-2 would have the remainder of the teams, including the newly crowned Test nations. A promotion and relegation system would be in place and dictate movement between the Tiers.

It is no secret that Test playing nations have differing views on this issue.

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan remained at odds with such a system, albeit their team results did not warrant anything better.

Although their fear and frustration can be understood, logic dictates that rankings exist for a reason. Every team should earn its right to compete against the best.

India also opposed this notion, but only as consolidation to its neighbouring countries.

Many international players have been urging the ICC to adopt a two-tier cricket. They continue to warn of a mass exodus to Twenty20 leagues if nothing is done.

In 2016, the ICC withdrew the proposal for a two-tier system.

The cricket world awaits sanity to soon prevail with ICC. The danger of it following the woeful mismanagement style of FIFA remains a worry.

After winning the World Cup in 1966, England failed to qualify for the tournament in 1974. If it can happen in Football, it can happen in cricket too.

Its time a change blows over Test cricket to preserve it.

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Photo Caption:

Test Cricket is losing interest (Picture Courtesy: BBC, United Kingdom)

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