Sport Cricket The plan that could signal the death of Test cricket

The plan that could signal the death of Test cricket

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"There's a Test on in India ... but you're staying home for a T20, lads." Photo: Getty
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It is the fixture clash that shows where cricket is headed.

Australia will play a home Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka in February, just hours before a Test match starts in India.

Cricket has many problems. A schedule bursting at the seams with meaningless matches creates a large portion of them.

Of course, the four-Test series in India should take priority.

But Cricket Australia (CA) won’t want a group of off-cuts taking part in a the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka on home soil.

After all, they’ve got tickets to sell.

The likes of Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Marsh will be wanted by both teams, leaving CA with the choice of supporting the home series (which is a minor event at best given the quality of this summer’s cricket calendar) or sending an uncompetitive Aussie side to a place where very few nations win.

The clash indicates officialdom’s ineptitude and disrespect for the game, its players and the Baggy Green.

It also says plenty about their greed.

We’ve been force-fed too much cricket for too long and now we’re so full we can’t even get up off the couch to get to a game.

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Crowds at Test matches aren’t what they used to be. Photo: Getty

“When there’s so much cricket being played that you are handing out [Aussie] caps left, right and centre, it sends a bad message,” Simon Katich told News Corp this week.

“It means the relevance of the Australian team is in jeopardy.

“If that becomes the norm for the public to be witnessing that, it can’t be a good thing.”

I believe it means that within a couple of decades, the famous cap – and Test cricket – will be museum pieces. And so will the one-day game.

Let’s be honest. Twenty20 franchise cricket is now the main form of the game.

The short-attention-span format is where players and cricket administrations make the bulk of their money, and what fans increasingly want to see.

It is also the form preferred by media organisations.

Three hours of T20 fits snugly into primetime television with its top-end advertising rates.

test cricket
The Big Bash League is now the highlight of the summer. Photo: Getty

Our own Big Bash League is now summer’s biggest event, rivalling the Australian Open for television and online eyeballs.

With its manufactured big-city teams, it now encroaches on the season from mid-December until the end of January, in line with the school holidays.

That old chestnut – the Sheffield Shield competition – is shelved for the new format, to the detriment of our Test team when seeking injury replacements or players in form with the red ball.

That the coming Test series against India will be not played at major stadiums like Mumbai’s Wankhede or Kolkata’s Eden Gardens is another statement about the game.

Once upon a time, fans would be queuing down the road to get in.

This is cricket-mad India we are talking about.

Yet provincial Pune will host a Test – as will recently introduced venues of Dharamsala and Ranchi.

That’s because India’s ‘proper season’ starts in early April when the Twenty20 Indian Premier League begins.

The league has made multi-millionaires out of Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Tait, James Faulkner and other second-string Aussies.

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The Indian Premier League has no problem attracting crowds. Photo: Getty

For those who miss out on the tournament played by domestic Indian ‘franchises’, the T20 caravan rolls through the Caribbean in July and onto Bangladesh in November.

Even the Poms have hopped on board with their Natwest T20 Blast.

What hope has the Baggy Green and Test cricket got against the new market’s Bashes and Blasters?

Katich’s comments reflect the transition taking place in the cricket market.

Once the game’s main revenue base shifted from the gate to broadcast rights, cricket administrators had to bend to the whims of media moguls or lose control of the game.

And that is not good news for Test cricket.

Dr Tom Heenan teaches sports studies at Monash University.

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