It was very sad turning on the television last week and seeing rows and rows of empty seats at a Test match. On this occasion it was South Africa versus Bangladesh in Bloemfontein but it is a recurring theme.
The longer format of the game, the Ashes aside, is only going one way and that’s downhill. As I have written previously, something needs to be done to capture or recapture people’s imaginations.
World governing body the International Cricket Council are set to discuss the prospect of a Test Championship being introduced as early as 2019 at a meeting in Auckland tomorrow.
While similar initiatives have been mooted in the past but never come to fruition, the proposal is for a nine-team league of Test-playing nations to be contested over a two or three-year cycle with the potential for a subsequent knockout stage.
Whether it is four-day Test matches, day-night fixtures using a pink ball or this – or indeed a combination of all three – we need to try something different to make Test cricket more interesting for spectators and ultimately boost attendances.
A Test Championship would put more emphasis on a game and create a greater edge in clashes, and like a World Cup or a Champions Trophy give a definitive winner. Should this concept be rolled out I can only see it being a positive.
When I was part of the England side which reached world No1 in 2011, we were always being told by analysts that if we won a certain amount of Tests by a certain time then we would hit top spot by a particular juncture. It didn’t lessen the sense of accomplishment for us but it can get pretty complicated.
The mantle of world No1 has changed hands six times since the beginning of 2016, with nations playing a different number of games during the time period in question than their rivals. During August 2016, India were top for just four days.
A straightforward series is traditional but it might be best to scrap the standalone nature of that and start again with a new competition.
Certain things would need ironing out like fixture synchronicity, whether a team gets more points if they beat a side of a higher ranking, or if there should be a system of winning and losing draws to avoid dull climaxes to matches.
But irrespective of hurdles and unanswered questions, a Test Championship might just make Test cricket more interesting to watch for the public and that’s what matters.