Sport Cricket Will this be the summer that kills Test cricket?

Will this be the summer that kills Test cricket?

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Can you remember a summer of Test cricket that promised less than this one?

For all the batting records being rewritten at the WACA, it’s hard to recall a season where interest has been lower in the five-day game.

New Zealand were expected to give us a tussle, but their seamers haven’t found the pitches in either Brisbane or Perth to their taste (to be fair, the deck in Perth isn’t to the taste of anyone other than those inflating their batting averages).

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The pitches, even last summer against India, have decisively favoured bat over ball.

If groundsmen are under instruction to prepare docile wickets to ensure matches go the full five days, then authorities should rethink the practice.

David Warner's double ton didn't get the audience it should have. Photo: Getty
David Warner’s double ton didn’t get the audience it should have. Photo: Getty

Three or four days of fantastic contest between bat and ball are far better than the relative drudgery we’ve seen at the WACA.

Crowds have been poor, with some speculating high ticket prices are behind the mess.

That’s a point, but there’s also an argument to be made that perhaps people just don’t care anymore.

It will be interesting to see how many turn out on Boxing Day, or up in Sydney, to see Australia take apart the West Indies.

I’ve had more discussions with people about Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar using their status to take the game to the USA, than Ross Taylor’s brilliant batting on a lifeless WACA deck.

That ‘All-Star’ series combines nostalgia and the interest in the new, shortened form of the game.

It’s a fair idea – it reminds me of how I’d sit spellbound in front of the telly a few years back watching Graham Gooch and Courtney Walsh playing beach cricket. (I’m easily spellbound…)

The WACA Test has lurched from one embarrassment to the next – from a 17-minute delay on day three because of a defective sightscreen, to the Kookaburra ball having to be replaced a ridiculous number of times during the match.

David Warner rewrote the record books on Friday, while Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor played sumptuous cricket over the weekend.

Mitchell Starc logged a 160.4km/h thunderbolt which piqued the crowd during a fiery spell, but as the match peters out to a draw, these highlights can’t paper over the cracks: interest in this series has been negligible.

The crowds have been indicative of that.

And his century at the Gabba was also met by a largely empty stadium. Photo: Getty
And his century at the Gabba was also met by a largely empty stadium. Photo: Getty

The biggest WACA crowd (13,593) turned up on day one (Friday), while a paltry 10,047 attended Saturday and 9263 on Sunday – a combined weekend attendance of 19,310.

Expect an improvement in Adelaide, with the novelty of the day/night Test and pink ball sure to generate some interest.

But Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland has ordered a review into the crowds.

“As long as there are empty seats, we want to do a better job at trying to sell that, and that will be what this review is about,” he said.

It’s hard not to think of the old line from Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, they will come.’

This Australian Test summer is an inferior product.

The format in this country only captures the imagination of the casual fan when England, South Africa or – at a stretch – India is involved.

Test cricket is like The Wire – a brilliant show that requires viewers to apply themselves, when all people’s attention spans have room for nowadays is a veg out in front of Two and a Half Men.

At its zenith Test cricket was an art form.

But these days most kids would rather put up a selfie on Instagram than check out a gallery.

Right now, on the verge of another burst of hit and giggle in the Big Bash and two Tests against the eighth-ranked side in the world, it’s miles from that peak.

Normally I’m a defender of the virtue of Tests above all else.

Not this summer.


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