User:NGrant/The Decline of Test Cricket?
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In recent years the shorter forms of cricket have started to take over and are proving to be much more popular with the fans. The fast action and unpredictability which they bring has created a new dimension for the fans and the newly formed Indian Premier League has come about as a result. There have also been numerous debates between many former players and icons of the game about different strategies which could be implemented to reinvigorate the Test format. One of these methods includes introducing day/night test matches. Recent match fixing allegations in test cricket have also done no favours for its credibility, or to increase its appeal to the fans. Political power from the boards in cricket, and in selections has also further hurt test cricket as a whole.
This paper will look into the many factors which are impacting on the decline of Test Cricket. It will focus on an international scale through recent allegations which have been made against players, the abuse of political power in the game, and also through the recent IPL revolution. It will focus on factors at national and state levels in Australia and how they are impacting on the decline for Australian Test Cricket. It will also look into how Test Cricket can possibly be reinvigorated in the future to improve it as a business aspect and for fans in the future.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Recent Allegations & Political Power
- 3 IPL Revolution
- 4 Impact at National & State Level
- 5 Need for reinvention
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 Reference List
Ever since World Series Cricket was introduced by Kerry Packer in 1977, test cricket has faced increased competition. Since then the one day cricket format has developed into what it is today, and more recently the 20/20 competition, in particular the IPL T20, has taken cricket to new heights. The fast paced, high action nature of the game is proving to be far more popular with the fans, and has also delivered a much needed revenue boost for cricket as a business. Recent allegations in test cricket have done nothing to improve its popularity, whilst state and local levels continue to struggle in the longer formats of the game. The need to reinvigorate test cricket is imminent, with day/night test cricket one of many methods which could be used, to return it to the pinnacle of cricket for all.
Recent Allegations & Political Power
Harbhajan Singh, Andrew Symonds & the BCCI
In 2008 allegations were made between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh during the Sydney test match between Australia and India. It was alleged that Singh had referred to Symonds as a “monkey” and was later reported by match umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson for racial allegations. Singh was later proven guilty under section 3.3 of the ICC code and banned for 3 test matches. After the outcome had been made, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) stepped in and threatened to remove the Indian team from the tour if the banned wasn’t lifted (ECB, 2010). Given the political power that the BCCI holds within cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) stepped in, removing umpire Steve Bucknor from the third test, and allowing Harbhajan Singh to play in the remainder of the series. The ban was overturned and the penalty he received was downgraded to 50% of his match fee. The BCCI was heavily criticised following the incident for abusing the political power which they hold as the suspended sentence and following ICC hearing was only brought about after the BCCI had threatened to quit the tour.
The Pakistan cricket team have also been involved in numerous scandals over the past few years. Most recently Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif have been found guilty of spot match fixing, through deliberate bowling of no balls throughout Test matches (Press Trust of India, 2011). This has seen them facing up to seven years in jail for their actions. Other allegations on the team include the Sydney Test match against Australia in 2010. Although the match fixing allegations were dismissed, it did not prevent many questions being asked about the nature of how Pakistan lost the test match. It has damaged the reputation of Pakistan cricket and also test match cricket as a whole.
Zimbabwe political turmoil
In the early years of the 21st century Zimbabwe cricket was also involved in political scandals. Players who were in the test cricket team were only allowed to play if they were for the Mugabe regime. Players who didn’t agree with the actions of President Mugabe were not allowed to play in the test team. The political power that Mugabe had also stretched over into the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU). As the ZCU was under Mugabe’s control, any players who were picked for the test cricket side were based on both their political and cricket ability. (Tatchell, P, 2011).
The Indian Premier League has become one of the biggest hits for cricket lovers since its inception in 2008. The quick pace and nature of the game gives fans excitement from every ball and allows them to watch a full game after work. Music and entertainment is also offered throughout the night, adding to the experience for spectators. The massive salary which players can attain from the player auctions is also another draw to the shorter form of the game. The highest paid player during the 2011 IPL was Gautam Gambhir from India who earned USD $2.4m for playing only six weeks of cricket. The money which is available from the tournament can be too tempting for some players, especially those on the fringe who do not have high paying Cricket Australia contracts. More players are now basing their style of play around the shorter forms of the game, as there is more business to be made in these competitions, than in test cricket. Lasith Malinga, a high profile Sri Lankan cricketer has also retired from test cricket, to focus on the shorter forms of the game. Malinga made $USD 500,000 from his six weeks worth in the IPL, providing him with more than enough money to live comfortably for many years. With the sort of money that is being thrown around in these player auctions, why would younger players be focusing on playing test cricket, when the main business opportunities are coming from the shorter formats of the game. The IPL’s brand value was valued at $3.67 billion for the 2011 tournament, making it a great proposition for business owners and investors. It has the capability to expand as a business even further in the future, with more revenue being generated and more pressure being placed upon test cricket.
Impact at National & State Level
Tradition vs Reward
With all of this money on offer, why would up and coming young cricketers be solely focused on gaining that lucrative baggy green that is given for playing test cricket for Australia? State cricketers work extremely hard to get where they are, and only a small minority are handed contracts by Cricket Australia. First class cricket (the level below test cricket in Australia) has struggled for a number of years in Australia, with matches consisting of two innings for both teams and is played over four days. Most games would struggle to get over 1000 spectators for the entirety of the four days. Virtually no Cricket Australia contracts are handed out just for Test players. Take the recent axing of Simon Katich as an
example. Katich has been one of, if not the top performer in test cricket for Australia over the past three years (Conn, M). However when it came to his Cricket Australia contract renewal, Katich wasn’t handed a new contract with the reason being his age and to give younger players an opportunity. It can only fuel the debate that Cricket Australia as a business was not prepared to spend the money on Katich as he isn’t in the one day, or Twenty20 squads. It freed up more money for Cricket Australia to give contracts to other players who are playing in all forms of cricket for Australia. It also shows the position which Cricket Australia holds, and the political nonsense which is going on.
David Hussey is another prime example for this. Hussey is not in contention at the present time to be picked for test matches for Australia. However he was still handed a Cricket Australia contract worth $200,000 for his performances in the shorter forms of the game. On top of that he was also given $1.4m for participating in this years IPL. Given the treatment which was given to Katich and Hussey, it can come as no surprise that state and junior players who are trying to force their way into the Australian team and make their livelihoods off cricket will be looking to do so through the one day and Twenty20 formats and not through test cricket.
Changing of the guard
Players at both junior levels and state levels are now developing a style of play which is more suited to the shorter forms of the game, as they have a better chance of forcing their way into the Australian team and the money on offer can be seen as a fantastic business opportunity from a player’s perspective. Big hitters who can provide entertainment, stand to make a lot more money and be provided with more opportunities in the current climate than those who have based their game around the test match format and are currently playing first class cricket in Australia. David Warner is a prime example of how this has happened. Warner’s game is entirely based around the shorter formats of the game. However in the recent series against Sri Lanka, Warner was named as the 12th man for Australia in a test match against Sri Lanka. As he already has a Cricket Australia contract for the shorter formats of the game, he is eligible to participate in test matches for Australia has well. How Warner could be a better option than Simon Katich is as good a guess as anyone’s. It provides further evidence for state and local players who are coming up the ranks that basing their game around the shorter formats can be beneficial for their career and also as a business opportunity. It shows how the shorter forms of the game are taking over from test cricket, and influencing how young players are being brought up.
KFC 20/20 Big Bash
The KFC 20/20 Big Bash is just another downfall for test cricket at the state level in Australia. Its inception has put first class cricket further down the pecking order in Australia and big amounts of money are being offered for state cricketers. With relatively small salaries compared to players contracted to Cricket Australia, and players with access to cheques in the IPL, the 20/20 Big Bash can provide state players with a massive salary increase. Top state players can earn up to $150,000 for this years competition, and have a greater chance of receiving a big pay cheque than by playing first class cricket and hopefully being called up to play test cricket for Australia. 20/20 also provides a more inviting proposition as a business venture, as Twenty20 is so popular with the fans. It is broadcast during prime time TV giving potential investors a sound investment. On January 15 2010 a KFC 20/20 match between Victoria and Queensland at the MCG provided an attendance of 43,125 spectators. However less than 3 weeks earlier in the boxing day test between Australia and Pakistan, the attendance for day 2 was only 39,623. A fixture between two teams playing 20/20 at state level brought more spectators to the game, than day 2 of a Boxing Day test match involving Australia.
Need for reinvention
One suggestion which has been raised to reinvigorate test cricket, comes in the form of introducing day/night matches. It is of the belief of many former and current players that Test cricket played during the night has a future in the game. Rahul Dravid, a current Test Cricket batsman for India (who is second in the all time runs scored in test cricket) stated, “there is definitely a future for day-night test and first class cricket”. He also went onto state how it can be beneficial in the future, “I think there are a few further tweaks that need to be made…. but as with any new innovation administrators and the players will need to take a leap of faith at some point” (ESPNcricinfo). Peter Young, the public affairs manager for Cricket Australia also stated in an interview that “globally most premium sport is played at night”.
With this in mind it seems reasonable that cricket could be taken down the same path in the Test format to improve itself as a business proposition. People would be able to attend matches after work, which would fit better into the lives of the people in the 21st century, and increase the amount of business and revenue that cricket Australia would receive. It would also give test cricket television coverage during the prime time slot, another added bonus for Cricket Australia as a business. Of course more debating over the right ways to go about it needs to be discussed, and different aspects need to be further tested. However there is no reason why day/night games cannot be introduced in the future to improve test cricket as a business, for the spectators, and for the game itself. Dravid also said “with practice players will learn to adapt to the challenge, and tactics will start to come into play, which can only add interest” (ESPNcricinfo).
The decline of Test Cricket in recent times has been there for all to see. Attendance numbers are on the decline, and a lack of interest due to the lengthy nature of game and the booming inudstry of Twenty20 is proving to be a real threat. Recent allegations surrounding the test arena and abuse of power from political powerhouses of the game have also played their own part along the way. Test cricket needs to reinvigorated by exploring different options which are available and taking some risks along the way. This will ensure that it is around for the next 130 years, for future generations to enjoy the pure and traditional form of the game.
- Conn, M, (2011) 'Chris Gayle, Muttiah Muralidaran chasing big money for KFC Twenty20 Big Bash, talk up player payment storm' http://www.foxsports.com.au/cricket/domestic-cricket/chris-gayle-muttiah-muralidaran-chasing-big-money-for-kfc-twenty20-big-bash-talk-up-player-payment-storm/story-fn5k3es5-1226080436587 viewed 27th October
- ECB, (2008). 'Harbhajan ban lifted' http://www.ecb.co.uk/news/world/harbhajan-ban-lifted,16139,EN.html viewed 25th October 2011
- ESPNcricinfo.com, (2011), ‘Dravid backs day/night Test cricket’ http://www.espncricinfo.com/mcc/content/story/508873.html viewed 27th October 2011
- IPL-schedule.com, (2011) ‘Players sold in IPL Auction 2011’ http://www.ipl-schedule.com/382-players-sold-in-ipl-auction-2011.html viewed 25th October 2011
- n.a. (2011) ‘Recent MCG cricket attendances’ http://www.mcg.org.au/History/Attendances/~/media/Files/Cricket%20Attendances.ashx viewed 25th October 2011
- Pande, B, (2011). ‘IPL-4: IPL's brand value falls by 11% to $ 3.67 billion’ http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-04-07/news/29392570_1_brand-finance-indian-premier-league-ipl viewed 25th October 2011
- Press Trust of India, (2011). 'Spot-fixing: ICC hails verdict, says it’s a further warning' http://cricket.santabanta.com/cricket/news/11271/spot-fixing-icc-hails-verdict-says-its-a-further-warning.html viewed 27th October 2011
- Sheek, (2011), ‘Orange the colour of day-night test cricket?’ http://www.theroar.com.au/2011/04/21/will-orange-be-the-colour-of-day-night-test-cricket/ viewed 25th October 2011
- Tatchell, P. (2011) ‘Zimbabwe Cricket Team “Politically Cleansed' http://www.petertatchell.net/sport/zimbabwecricketers.htm viewed 26th October 2011