Test cricket 'near crisis point'

By Sam Hewat

The truth is finally being acknowledged; test cricket is in danger of dying.

Cue the purists, who hate shorter formats of the game which have come to dominate player movements and television screens.

They'll say the five-day format is the way cricket is meant to be played.

But you only have to look at any test series around the world to see empty seats, meaningless results and a whole lot of unsustainable costs.

Heath Mills, the chief executive of the New Zealand Cricket Player's Association, spoke to Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch and said the biggest problem is that test cricket lacks meaning.

"We lurch from month to month with different bilateral series between countries and they are all different in nature," Mills said.

"There'll be a test series between countries one year, then they'll play short-form the next, then there'll be three ODIs or seven ODIs or one test or three tests.

It just has no context or meaning in the greater sense."

And it's the rise of T20 cricket and the shorter forms of the game, bringing in all the cash, which are paying for the format we love, but that's sucking all the money.

"Test cricket is the biggest cost to the sport at the moment," Mills said. "I wouldn't say the game is at a crisis point, but it's nearing it."

Broadcasters want numbers. And for that, they'll turn to the T20 leagues and the ODI world cups which attract thousands of numbers.

In a way, Mills believes it's the sheer amount of cricket which is transforming the game.

He said players who are now grabbing contracts in multiple domestic and international T20 leagues, are often playing 12 months of cricket and that wasn't sustainable.

Similarly, he stated the fact that a player can earn more money playing three months of T20 cricket, than they can playing 12 months of international cricket.

So what's the solution?

Mills is still optimistic. But he says the bilateral series must go.

"They lack context and meaning," he said. "And now, there's a greater understanding that bilateral series between countries are declining in value and broadcasters just aren't prepare to pay what they have previously been playing."

"We believe we can get an international model with context and meaning that works that provides balance for all three formats."

Mills would rather see less test series played over the course of the year, but series that have more external value.

For example, a world competition that pits countries against each once over the course of a few years, with semifinals and finals, would make each test series as valuable as the next.

Similarly, viewers would tune in to other international games knowing that the result could influence their own countries standing.

"If everyone buys into it, it will happen," Mills said.

"At the moment, we have the three world tables, but they are really difficult for people to get their heads around because each country plays a different amount of cricket against all different opposition.

"So do we really have indication of who is the number one team in cricket?"

It's not all dead roses yet, but something needs to happen, and fast.

- NZ Herald

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