Test cricket's survival depends on Indian fans learning to love the format, says former England captain and current head of the MCC World Cricket Committee Tony Lewis.
Lewis is here to participate in the inaugural edition of the Royals Trophy, a golf tournament for amateurs featuring clubs from around the Commonwealth that have historically enjoyed royal patronage. Lewis, a Welshman, who played nine Tests for England in 1972-73 will represent Royal Porthcawl. He also spoke at length about cricket after the unveiling of the trophy on Wednesday.
"In recent years we have seen spectators shying away from Test match grounds in India, maybe because of the price of tickets, or the difficulty in taking time out from work," Lewis said.
"But Tests need people to learn to love the format in India, which has cherished and nurtured the game of cricket."
India's obsession with cricket rarely translates into big crowds at Test matches. The BCCI, too, has stopped playing five-Test series home or away - only Australia get four Tests against India — and focuses on the money-spinning one-dayers and T20s.
Lewis calls the MCC World Cricket Committee "the game's conscience" and as its chairman, watches a lot of cricket around the world. He was in Bangalore for the inaugural match of the Indian Premier League (in April 2008 when Kolkata Knight Riders' Brendon McCullum hit 158 not out) and liked what he saw. But he is also acutely aware of T20's threat to Test cricket. "You can have a situation where kids growing up watching T20s will not know what Test cricket is all about," Lewis said.
To bring back interest in Tests, the World Cricket Committee, which counts Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble as its members, recently proposed a knockout World Test Championship. "The ICC asked us to come to Dubai to discuss it," Lewis said. The meeting took place in November last year.