Tony Veitch: Test cricket in big trouble

By Tony Veitch

Crowd numbers are falling for test cricket. Photo / Getty
Crowd numbers are falling for test cricket. Photo / Getty

It is the form of the game hardcore cricket fans love. It is what defines greatness for all cricketers, but it is also a game in big trouble.

I was chatting with a former Black Cap this week who maintains test cricket is doomed.

In his words, the test game has been tracking this way for at least five years as Twenty20 cricket explodes in popularity around the world.

There are all sorts of suggestions about how to reverse the slide, everything from day-night tests and four-day tests to getting rid of the toss to give opposition sides a better chance of competing away from home.

But as was pointed out to me during the week, if you change the fundamentals of this wonderful game, are you then consigning test cricket to the scrap heap?

Channel 9's ratings for the first Australian test of the summer in Perth were down 30 per cent on the corresponding match between the Black Caps and Australia last summer.

Crowds were also down, despite Cricket Australia taking the unprecedented step of reducing ticket prices. Australia's national sporting obsession is taking a big hit.

New Zealand are in the more fortunate position of having boutique test venues perfect in size and atmosphere for the red-ball game.

But there is no ignoring the facts: test cricket is not paying for itself any longer and, love it or hate it, T20 is propping up everything.

The question which no one seems to have an answer for is: how do we fix it?

Trollers beware

From tomorrow, online trollers, those keyboard warriors who feel it's somehow appropriate to fire abuse at our sportspeople, may well be hauled in front of the courts and face potential jail time. Not before time. Netsafe has set up a hotline for people to take the fight back to the trollers.

Social media can be wondrous but it can also be incredibly destructive. It has become an avenue for people to get personal and nasty, even threatening. We've seen a number of examples in recent years.

Lydia Ko shut down her Twitter account because of the abuse she was copping for accepting public funding. She was 16 at the time. Some of the comments put on my page about Ko defied belief. They were racially motivated and, quite frankly, hideous.

Pat Lam copped a similar pounding when he was Blues coach. There was also one All Black who missed out on World Cup selection last year who said he almost shut down his Twitter account because of the nasty comments he was receiving.

I am happy to admit I live on my Facebook page. It's a wonderful source of information and a great way to gauge the sentiments of a nation but, at times, I'm embarrassed by some of the vitriol that is posted. Now, finally, there is an avenue to take action and, for me, it is going to take someone to be hauled in front of the courts to set a precedent for what is decent and acceptable correspondence. As I say, keyboard warriors you have been warned.

Our most divisive sportspeople

Sticking with the theme of trolling, it got me thinking, who are the sportspeople who tend to divide opinion. Here's the list I came up with, in no particular order:

- Shaun Johnson
- Brendon McCullum
- Jesse Ryder
- Justin Marshall
- Carlos Spencer
- Ma'a Nonu, before he had the season on his life in 2015
- Manu Vatuvei
- Sonny Bill Williams

- NZ Herald

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