Sunday, October 26, 2008

The future of Test cricket - more frequent Ashes!

Cricket commentators are very worried about the future of Test cricket in light of the increasing popularity of the Twenty20 format.

But the fact is that most current Test cricket is regarded by most people as dull.

One big exception is the Ashes, England only play Australia every 2 years on average. It would be much better is the sides met every year, alternating between the countries.

I do not think the increase in Twenty20 is stoppable, nor do I think it should be stopped.

And concerns over excessive quantity are premature: we will not know how much Twenty20 is enough until we have had too much - that's the only way to find out.

I suspect the market for Twenty20 will not be saturated until there is a significant internationally-interesting Twenty20 match happening somewhere in the world every day of the year including Christmas Day and televised live. Anything less than this is less than enough for cricket addicts!

My feeling is that England and Australia should take-over Test cricket and build the other Test fixtures around the Ashes. From my perspective, this would be great! After all, the Ashes is the oldest international cricket competition, and no other countries are so keen on Test cricket as England and Australia.

Other test match series could be built around the Ashes and controlled by England-Australia - a mixture of regular but less frequent clashes between the Ashes sides and South Africa, India and Sri Lanka.

Perhaps there might also be less frequent, one-off series againt Pakistan, the West Indies and New Zealand. (Forget about Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). Players from these countries who wanted to play Test cricket regularly would need to qualify for other countries - perhaps this process could be streamlined.

Realistically, I think that Pakistan is unlikely to be a major Test team for the forseeable future - until the country becomes more stable and less corrupt; New Zealand has too small a population ever to be a significant Test team (given that cricket is only their second sport); and the West Indies will never again be a great team because it is composed of players from several independent countries that are growing apart, and (mostly) growing poorer and more corrupt.

Although the transition will be painful, I think that Test cricket has become very dull on average due to too many poor teams, too many mis-matches and too little public interest. The big series (like the current Australia v India series) still grab considerable public interest, but are not frequent enough.

I am pleased that Twenty20 will cause a reorganization of Test cricket - and am pleased at the likely prospect of more frequent Ashes clashes.