Things that can be done to increase the popularity of Test Cricket
The bottom line is that Test Cricket is and remains the ultimate test for a player. ICC needs to take some decisive steps towards regaining the interest of the fans all over the world otherwise the boom boom cricket of T20s will steal the show from Test arena.
If any cricketer is asked the question “which is the best format of cricket”, his answer would definitely be Test Cricket. Every cricketer aspires to be playing Test cricket for his country. The proudest moment in a cricketer’s life is when the first ever test cap is presented to him. Test cricket is indeed the real form of the game ever since its inception. It brings out the best out of any player.
But the cricket experts all over the world are worried that the longest format of the game is losing popularity. With the advent of T20 cricket, fans are more inclined towards the shortest format. T20 games end in a mere three and a half hours and results are produced and that too with a lot of entertainment packed with big hitting.
There are a few countries like England and Australia where fans still support Test cricket but in all other countries, the graph of Test cricket is severely declining which is evident by the empty seats in the stands. This can also be attributed to the retirement of the legends like Tendulkar, Kallis, Ponting, Dravid, Jayawardene and many others in the very recent times. Almost all the teams are in the transition phases. This is a real cause of concern for ICC as well as the players.
But to whatever extent something may advance, we have got to look to preserve the roots which originally gave birth to it. Similar is the case with Test Cricket. Here are some steps that can be taken to spread the game to a greater audience and bring back the interest of the fans.
1. Sporting pitches
There is a term home advantage in cricket. The team playing at home has a huge edge because of the familiar conditions. The pitches are made as to assist the home sides. If there is a separate panel specifically to take care of the pitches, then a fair contest would be on the show.
There would be a lot more competition in the game. The pitch in the final Test of the ongoing series between India and Sri Lanka is the perfect example in this case. Both teams rely mostly on their spinners, but here because of a grassy pitch, they had to get out of their comfort zone and do something different. Fame of Test Cricket is marred by the number of matches that end in no result. If result-oriented pitches are made, then it will bring more life to the game.
2. Neutral venues
There have not been many instances till the date of neutral venues for Test matches. Imagine if the current India-Sri Lanka series would be played in England or South Africa, how interesting a contest that would have been. Or if Australia and England play in India, that would give an altogether a new dimension to the Ashes. This may not bring a large audience to the stadium, but a Test match here and there at neutral venues would be very interesting and the audience on Television will certainly increase.
3. Smaller venues
Test cricket is mostly played at the very orthodox cricket venues. For example, in India, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and a few other large metropolitan cities only get to host the Test matches. There is a large section of cricket fans who reside in smaller cities.
The fans want to see their stars in action very closely and because the matches are played at only certain venues, they are denied of that. There are cities like Ranchi, Indore, Raipur, Dharamsala, Vizag, and Pune which have world class stadiums and the facilities are as good as anywhere else.
These venues are given an odd ODI or an IPL match in a year or two. What is really needed to be done is that these venues should be given the chances to host Test matches as well. We see jam-packed stands whenever an odd match is played there, so just imagine what response Test cricket will get.
4. World Championship
T20 cricket has a world cup, ODI has a world cup and a Champions Trophy, but there is no such tournament for Test Cricket. There have been talks about having one such competition for Tests as well, but ICC has kept postponing it.
If one such tournament is organized where top 8 or top 10 teams of the world battle to become the ultimate Test champions, it would be fascinating. It will help to attract more crowds towards Test cricket and spread the game to the associate nations as well who currently play the limited overs cricket only.