Is Test cricket dead?
How long have we asked that question? The older folk may say it started happening in the 1970s when one-day cricket started taking off.
Perhaps it started in 2007, when T20 cricket properly established itself as the sport’s most popular format following the ICC World T20 hosted in South Africa?
That tournament, which featured a breathtaking final between arguably the game’s most popular national teams, rapidly set the wheels in motion for the establishment of the IPL.
The IPL’s popularity subsequently set in motion the creation of domestic T20 Leagues elsewhere – Australia, Bangladesh, the Caribbean, Pakistan and finally later this year in South Africa too.
The proliferation of those tournaments, meant an already tight international cricket calendar, became tighter still.
With financial imperatives increasing, it was Test cricket that would suffer. Except, as a format, it remains a stunning spectacle as has been witnessed this week.
Against England, the West Indies produced a turnaround from the first Test to the second so enormous, that no historian can recall there having been anything like it in the game.
Then Bangladesh beat Australia for the first time, in a match where the teams were eventually separated by just 22 runs – with Shakib Al-Hasan confirming his standing as the best all-rounder in the game at the moment.
In that second Test between the West Indies and England, Joe Root’s declaration added to the excitement.
It was absolutely the right call to make, given what had taken place in the first Test, the make-up of his attack and conditions – but a couple of great innings from Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope proved to be better.
Test cricket works – yes, even in the modern age, where you can post photos of your lunch on Instagram and can tweet your thoughts about said lunch.
What Test cricket needs, in the modern age, is context – something the ICC has been too lame to provide it with, presumably because the powerful BCCI can’t seem to make a pile of money out of it.
But that’s how Test cricket will survive and even thrive. Modern cricketers are attacking by nature (yay, thanks to the T20 format), and if groundsmen can ensure there are surfaces that provide for an even contest between bat and ball, the play will be entertaining.
Beyond that, what’s badly needed is a Test Championship – to provide each and every Test match with context and more excitement. The format can and should be marketed better.
There is still room for all three of cricket’s formats. Some smart structuring of the calendar can ensure everyone is happy.
Countries can host their own T20 domestic leagues – and international cricket can continue to thrive most importantly for its most intriguing and enduring format.
Test cricket has been played for 140 years, but there is plenty of life left in it yet.
The onus is on the sport’s administrators to harness and structure it properly, by providing it with greater context through the creation of a Test Championship.