International Cricket
Test Cricket Needs Both Context and Contest
6 years, 2 months ago Posted in: International Cricket 0
Test Cricket Needs Both Context and Contest

The talk of Test Cricket on its last legs, on its way out—could be a real possibility. What else does one make of empty stadia which till a few years ago boasted of huge turnouts, even it be a lackluster series. But wait—is it only the longer format of the game which is failing to woo its audience? Well, if the numbers in the stadia are a fair indication of the health of the game, ODIs are under the weather too. Even the India-England series, touted as the ‘payback’, saw low attendance. And no, T20 is not the one stealing the spectators, for this format too was played before empty chairs—case in point being, ‘The Champions League’. While the television ratings might blur the picture a bit, the truth is, if people have stopped venturing out to watch a match, it wouldn’t take them long to turn off their TV sets too. The assumption that a cricket match is enough to pull the crowds is a complete fallacy. About time we understand our audience.

 Context

Gone are the days when people in India were glued to their television sets at the mere suggestion of a game of cricket. That was the time when even the opposition didn’t matter much and neither did the timings of the match, even the facilities provided within the stadium. Watching a match live was a high of a different kind. Now, with the number of matches increasing manifold and their favorite cricketers playing cricket all around the year, around the globe, people have started picking and choosing the contests they prefer to follow. It would be rather ambitious to expect people to watch India taking on England and the West Indies twice in three months. And thus, there has to be a context to every cricket game and also a contest. There’s no fun in watching India decimate the West Indies in home conditions or play 10 ODIs against England in a little over a month.

 Scheduling

Starting a Test match on a Monday is, perhaps, the surest way of keeping people away from the ground. And if the opposition happens to be the current West Indian team, the chances are doubled. Considering the low turnouts, even in places like the Eden Gardens, it’s essential to think the itinerary through. We must ensure that Test matches start on a Thursday so that people get to watch the most important days (Day 3 and 4) of a Test match without missing offices and schools.

 Too much cricket

We must also acknowledge that there’s far too much cricket happening. It may not be a bad idea to do away with meaningless bilateral series’ and instead have more multi-nation tournaments. Bilateral series’, if at all, should happen only between two evenly matches sides. While it’s a noble thought to improve a country’s cricket by pitching them against a tier-I side regularly, the progress of Bangladesh (or the lack of it) has shown the futility of that exercise. Tier II teams must play amongst themselves till they get promoted to the next level. So far, more cricket may have meant more revenues but the day isn’t far that only quality cricket would make the moolah.

It isn’t a particular format that is dying but it’s the boring/dull cricket which is on the ventilator.

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