Keeping It Relevant

One of the matters that has emerged in world cricket presently is the idea of keeping Test cricket relevant. While many were quick to dismiss the West Indies team for their quick capitulation against India in the first Test in Rajkot in less than three days, it is a highlight in point that the cricket world, particularly in the arena of Test cricket, is not quite as well informed.

While one would not go as far to label it ignorant for people to dismiss the West Indies team, it speaks greatly to the fact that Test cricket has not been marketed in the manner that Twenty20 leagues are advertised. Therefore, unless there has been a high profile series such as the recently concluded India’s tour of England where both teams arguably struggled for quality cricket from the top order batting which ironically made the contests closer and more engrossing, there is little way for others to know that while West Indies have been in the doldrums and are still struggling for a sense of cohesiveness with regarding to selecting their best teams across formats, they have, also, in some ways been on the mend over the past year.

It can be quite a painful and equally frustrating situation when defiant performances are interspersed with such dismal outcomes as it has happened with the West Indies that then takes away from encouraging every inch forward back in the upward direction. What must be taken into account is the fact that many a highly competitive teams have landed in India only to bite the bullet as it were. Furthermore, India have been equally guilty, despite their prowess and talent, of repeatedly underperforming on overseas tours irrespective of the change of guard or team composition. To then be unreasonably demanding of the West Indies seems much like misplaced expectations.

However, the discrepancy between how a series is viewed vis-à-vis another shows just how little Test cricket has been promoted not only by the television broadcasters but also, by the series organizers and by the International Cricket Council (ICC) itself. It is reflective in the empty stands, the lack of cheer or supporters, the absence of advertisers and also, in how the players themselves approach the game when the cricket boards are choosing on their own whim whether to field teams at full strength or undermine the quality of the contests, albeit for logical reasons, by pulling out their big players which does change the complexion of the contest in public perception and on the field.

Test cricket is now set to get a shot in the arm in the form of the World Test championship. But there are fears that unless the contests are highly competitive, that still might not be incentive enough to inject interest or enthusiasm given the vast chasm between the top ranked teams and those looking to challenge the status quo.

FIt is with this precise matter in mind that perhaps there is something to a point system wherein a lower ranked team gets huge impetus for upsetting a champion side as there is to the ICC and the cricket boards taking on the onus of promoting every series and contest as a relevant contest that elevates Test cricket itself. Time and again, suggestions to make Test cricket more interactive have been put forth. Engaging the fans to show up at the stadium, encouraging school excursions and creating an interactive fan base for people to meet their idols could be just half a handful of ways to go.

However, it is with some dismay, that while Test cricket is being exhorted even by high profile cricketers and captains as the pedestal of the sport, there is a clear case of cricket boards looking the other way, expending little effort to create a buzz around the game even when it is being played on home ground. While there is heavy promotion well in advance when Twenty20 leagues such as the Big Bash and the Indian Premier League are in the offing, boards are astonishingly opaque about using similar tactics to create a hype around their own home series, albeit against a team that is not quite on par yet.

That there needs to be a cohesive effort is an understatement. That there needs to be an enforcing, coercive hand to rule over the boards’ many interests is a given. But thus far, the ICC has looked far from being that enforcer as the cricket boards have been allowed to fill up their pockets, part with a slice of the pie for the participating boards and then look the other way when it comes to promoting the contest they are making money from. Surely there is something wrong with how Test cricket is being promoted before labelling Test cricket as the problem itself.

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