Ever since T20 burst onto the international scene, there have been rumblings about the death of Test cricket.
The MCC’s cricket committee heightened the debate by expressing similar concerns. It also proposed a World Test Championship to revitalise the longer version of the game. With due respect, this was discussed at length (at the behest of then ICC president Jagmohan Dalmiya) by a number of ex-players in 1999. Ten years on, we still only have the computer rankings to decide the pecking order of Test nations.
The main barriers to improving the image of Test cricket have been erected by the ICC itself. It has done the most to devalue Test cricket.
The international schedule is an abomination that resembles a jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces.
The increasing number of back-to-back Tests isn’t a recipe for getting the best out of players. Those competing in all forms not only face an increased risk of injury but also have to prioritise their exertion levels. The latter could be a clue to the lack of genuine fast bowlers in the game.
It was the ICC that allowed Bangladesh to enter the Test arena when they were not up to the standard.
The ICC suspended Zimbabwe at a time when their standards diminished rapidly under the rule of a badly corrupted regime.
It was the ICC that proposed the ill-advised Australia versus the World X1 match in 2005-06 as a possible solution to the number of mind-numbing one-sided series in Australia. It then reinforced the futility of a poorly thought out proposal by awarding the match Test status.
As long as the ICC is scheduling some tournaments and countries organise matches separately, the itinerary will never be coordinated.
Test cricket can’t afford to have players of the calibre of Andrew Flintoff retiring prematurely and Chris Gayle eulogising the shorter version.
It also can’t afford diminishing crowds at Tests in all countries barring England and Australia. Adding to those concerns, the West Indies are in disarray and Pakistan is a no-go area.
The only way these ailments are going to be corrected is by a united and co-operative effort. They can only be fixed by an administration that has the authority to run cricket globally with the priority being the best interests of the game.