I am not exactly surprised by the findings of the MCC survey on cricket. An overwhelming 86 percent of fans prefer watching the five day matches as compared to limited overs versions being of the opinion that Test cricket is the “ultimate’’ form. This comes on top of a survey conducted last year by the ICC which said that close to 70 percent (of 19,000 people between the ages of 16 and 69 supported Test cricket.
How often have we heard the phrase that “Test cricket is dying’’. Just last month we had no less a personality than the ICC chairman saying much the same thing. First it was said that Test matches had lost out to ODIs. Then with the proliferation of T-20 leagues around the cricketing world it was opined that there is no hope for Test cricket. And yet here we have facts that state just the opposite.
As a traditionalist and a bit of an old timer I still follow Test cricket. Of course I follow the limited overs versions too as a cricket fan and a professional writer on the sport but overall there is no greater satisfaction than watching a well contested Test match. The twists and turns, the lengthy suspense till the match is won or lost – or even when it ends in an exciting draw – is the apotheosis of the sport. Sure they have been dull Test matches but then there have been dull and totally one sided limited overs games which one hardly remembers. The events of a Test match however stay in the mind for long.
The cynics point out to the empty stands during a Test match to underscore their point that there is hardly any interest in cricket’s traditional format. While it is not an encouraging sight to see international games played before empty stands for crowds after all is what the game is all about this does not prove that there is a lack of interest in the format. People keep track of it on the internet or their mobiles, they watch it on TV and follow it on the radio. Fans still stop people on the road and want to know the latest score.
The survey was carried out across 100 countries with over 13,000 fans responding so the results can be taken as fairly conclusive. “Overwhelmingly Test cricket came out as the format that interests fans the most regardless of country or age,’’ the MCC said in a release. Certainly the survey points out to a positive future for Test cricket. The findings may also raise eyebrows among global cricket administrators including the ICC who are convinced that T-20 cricket is behind the growth of the game.
Yes, the administrators can look at steps like day/night Test cricket or four day matches or anything else that can bring the crowds back to the stadia. Or perhaps the Test Cricket Championship commencing later this year could be the answer. But one thing is sure – Test cricket will never die.