FICA CEO says only four countries' players value Test Cricket
Tony Irish has urged the ICC to try to make Test Cricket more attractive to players
Federation of International Cricketers' Association (FICA) CEO Tony Irish has voiced his concern regarding the future of Test Cricket. According to him it faces an uphill task in remaining relevant in the face of competition from Twenty20 leagues like the Big Bash League and the Indian Premier League.
Irish has stated that there are only about four countries who value the Test cricket format.
"Keeping the standard of Test cricket high really is a lot to do with how much the players value that format. In England, Australia, South Africa, and India to a certain extent, players really value that format. They will be responsible for keeping standards high. But perhaps not elsewhere."
Irish said that unless "radical changes" are introduced to the format by the International Cricket Council, bilateral Test cricket will die.
But the ICC CEO Dave Richardson has stated that there won't be any such change before 2019 when the current Future Tours Program ends. Irish feels that it will be a lost cause by then. "If we wait until 2019 then bilateral cricket around the world is going to be in real trouble,"
Irish has cited the example of West Indies players like Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo choosing freelance cricket over national duties.
"The worrying thing is that the players are telling us that if things don't change they will be turning more to T20 leagues. It varies from country to country. Countries where players are well paid and Test cricket is stronger have a big affinity to Test cricket."
"But in many countries that is not the case. You have to think big picture. You want to keep Test cricket strong in a number of countries so players want to play the format and there is investment in the format.
"Everyone in cricket has now got to the point where we need significant and proper changes. ICC events are strong because they have context but bilateral cricket is struggling. What we are trying to impress upon the administrators is that it is not just the commercial value and the fan interest that is dwindling, but players are starting to turn away from the game because they have an alternative market now.
"The two T20 leagues (IPL and Big Bash) are an internal market and free agency is on the rise. The West Indies are just a forerunner of the free agency change and we have got to do what we can to make international cricket as attractive as it can be to players," he said.
The T20 leagues do come with more limelight than Test matches, perhaps the only way for Test cricket to give it competition is through changes instituted by the ICC.