With all its music, fast paced action and boundaries galore there is a lot to love about Twenty20 cricket but with every major cricketing nation now deploying their own domestic league along with the Champions League and T20 world cup, it seems that a game that only appeared under 10 years ago could be over killed just as quickly. Twenty20 cricket was invented to attract a crowd that were not necessarily cricket lovers. Shortening the game provided more excitement in a short period of time and hence attracted a larger number of followers. However the influx of money and fame that T20 has brought has taken the edge of Test cricket in a number of countries.
Test cricket is the origin of the game and it seems that those that are not enjoying regular success are slipping away from it at a rate of knots. This should not be as big a concern as the ICC seem to believe. Just because countries such as India, West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka no longer seem to be as concerned with the longer form of the game does not mean that exhilarating test series cannot take place. The issue comes when the world’s top teams play each other in series that are just a couple of matches long. The teams at the top of the test rankings, i.e. South Africa, England and Australia all fill their stadiums for their home test matches even when playing sides that they will beat in 4 days every time. For instance when South Africa play England or Australia, why is it not a 5-test series? Last year when South Africa played Australia at home, they played just two tests and both results could not have been more different.
It seems inevitable that test series' will continue to become consistently one-sided when the top teams play the lesser sides unlike what appears to be the case in the shorter forms of the game. Pakistan can be added to the list of sides that still appear to care about the 5-day game and their upcoming series with South Africa will show exactly how good they are. It will be interesting to see what the cricket betting odds are for that series. India are in decline and especially away from home where their bowling attack is average at best. India still possesses some quality batsmen and at home they have decent enough spinners to win games but their fast bowling attack is leagues below that of Australia, South Africa and England. India’s issue in the longer format is that captain MS Dhoni does not seem that driven to succeed unlike when he takes the field in 50 or 20 over cricket where he is regularly in inspired form with the bat.
In the last few weeks this issue was perfectly summed up by South Africa’s series with New Zealand. South Africa absolutely thrashed New Zealand in the test series with two crushing victories, one wrapped up in three days. Come the one day series and New Zealand have wrapped up the win with a game to spare against an albeit under-strength Proteas unit. the question is can test cricket survive with just a handful of countries playing meaningful series while the others travel round the world in anticipation of the next world tournament?
This issue of how much countries care about test cricket is in exact correlation with the salaries of test cricketers from their respective boards. England, Australia and South Africa are the best-paid test cricketers and that is why they have the fewest mercenaries. Players such as Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga have at times dropped out of their national side in order to take part in some meaningless domestic competition for two weeks in order to earn big bucks. Although there was the Kevin Pietersen saga last year, no English, South African or Australian test cricketers play in a multitude of foreign T20 competitions. They are prepared to rest in the break between test series as they are paid well enough. With Pakistan being the last remaining country to create their own domestic T20 competition, test cricket needs to sort its act out before it is flooded out by the shorter form as those countries who are not succeeding attempt to distance themselves from the game. Maybe the stronger nations need to pass on some cricket tips to the relatively weaker ones.