A new survey has found that Test cricket is, in the immortal words of Shania Twain, still the one for fans around the world.
After a historically bad year of Test cricket for the Australian team, it may be hard for Aussies to think happy thoughts about the five-day game, but the rest of the world is positive about the oldest format.
According to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), 86 per cent of the 13,000-plus respondents to their survey said Tests were their preferred format to watch, follow and support.
The other options were one-day internationals and Twenty20 internationals, as well as domestic T20 competitions like the Big Bash League and Indian Premier League (IPL).
It is unfortunately not being borne out in the Australian crowds, with only nine of the 26 days of Test cricket this summer exceeding 50 per cent capacity at the respective grounds.
As Sri Lankan Test great and MCC world cricket committee member Kumar Sangakarra said, it is a lot easier to tick “Yes” on a survey than it is to actually fork over your hard-earned cash.
“That’s not really enough to sustain Test cricket into the future,” he said.
“We really need to underpin that with actual attendance at grounds and actual eyeballs on TV. So it’s a work in progress.”
Committee chairman Mike Gatting admitted, “Test cricket is in a bit of a plateau at the moment,” but said interest in the long-form game was being aided by the biggest names in the sport, like India and South Africa captains Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis.
“Virat has expressed his commitment to maintaining the position of Test cricket at the top of the sport, while off the back of South Africa’s one-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka, Faf insisted such matches demonstrate Test cricket is still the No.1 format,” Gatting said.
“When you have high-profile leaders like Virat and Faf being part of hugely exciting series, it shows what Test cricket can be.
“It is easy to see why the format is viewed as the pinnacle of our sport and we want to see it future-proofed and that could include looking at more day/night Tests, which we can see there is a big demand for, especially in Asia.”
Perhaps Australian interest will perk up once star batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner return from their year-long suspensions from the top levels of the game for an away Ashes series on the back of a World Cup.
Both are also on the comeback trail from elbow surgeries, with Warner taking his place in NSW Premier Cricket clash for Randwick-Petersham against Penrith on Saturday and belting 110 runs off 77 balls, with seven sixes and four fours.
Smith only recently got back into the nets and both are expected to line up in the IPL after being left out of the squad for Australia’s one-day series against Pakistan in the UAE, despite their bans ending on March 28.
That means they would be available for the final two games of the five-game series, but chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns said a decision was made to let them keep rehabbing their injuries outside the national set-up.