WTC vital to keep Test cricket relevant, says Ross Taylor

Jun 08, 2023 07:24 PM IST

Ross Taylor recalled the joy of winning the 2021 World Test Championship final against India and spoke of the incentive needed to keep Test cricket alive.

A World Test Championship final and Ross Taylor. Few who watched the first final at Southampton will ever forget his emotional reaction to the triumph. He had been playing for a long time and had been part of many New Zealand sides that would make the semi-finals of major ICC events, but somehow, they would always fall.

Ross Taylor (C) with India captain Rohit Sharma (L) and Australia skipper Pat Cummins (R)(ICC)
Ross Taylor (C) with India captain Rohit Sharma (L) and Australia skipper Pat Cummins (R)(ICC)

So, when the dream of becoming champions finally came to fruition at the Rose Bowl in 2021, he soaked it all in.

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“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Taylor had then said. “This would have to be the highlight of my career. At the start of my career, I felt we probably didn't have the side to do this. But I am sure there are a few Kiwis waking up who will be very proud. There was a lot of pressure, it was nice to be standing up to it. 2019 World Cup was something that was very tough for us at the time, but this makes up for that.”

The former NZ skipper is in London for the WTC final, and between the time when the Kiwis won the mace and now, the pressure on Test cricket has only grown. T20 is casting an ever-darker shadow on the other formats. And how can the other formats respond?

“This is where the WTC becomes so very important,” said Taylor in an interaction with some reporters at The Oval on Wednesday. “We are talking about relevancy and having those points makes Test cricket relevant. But at the same time, you need to be realistic.”

Taylor would love New Zealand to play more Test cricket but there are other considerations that come into play.

“A majority of our funding comes from white-ball cricket,” the former Kiwi batter said. “But if you ask the players, they want to play more Test cricket. For us, we want to try and play as many three-match series as possible. At the moment, we are playing a lot of two-match series. But when we do (get to play three-match series), the players want to make the most of it.”

So how does one fight the tide? Is there something that can make Test cricket more appealing to the youth? Should that be the target audience?

“There is a reason why Test cricket is the ultimate,” said the former skipper. “Being able to bat when there is no game situation. Might not be ideal for people who have just a couple of hours to spare but that is what makes Test cricket… Test cricket. It is the ultimate test. Bowling 25 overs in a day is very tough, physically and mentally. Batting all day isn’t easy. If we try to compare it to other formats, then that is where T20 cricket is just going to have to sit on its own.”

He added: “As I see it, if you change too much, you will lose it. The way England are playing it, the ball beating the bat ball after ball… I think as long as players are playing to win, it is exciting enough.”

A tier system has been suggested by some experts because there seems to be too many one-sided matches. Taylor isn’t in favour of that.

“If that was there, then NZ would be in the bottom tier and we wouldn’t be able to win the World Cup,” he said. “As things stand, it is as good as it gets. With franchise cricket, T20 and ODIs, the preparation time is also important and that is hard to find. Test cricket is about that too. Finding the balance isn’t easy, even for NZ who have been playing Tests for a while.

A huge threat to the game and its quality also comes from players starting to reject national contracts in favour of franchise cricket. If some of the top players are missing, then the quality of the game will be impacted.

“As things stand, players have to think about their futures and their longevity,” said Taylor. “I don’t see a mass exodus of players when they are young but I do see that happening with players who are coming to the end of their careers, I see that happening in other sports — Trent Boult for instance does a job that is very hard on the body and I think it is up to the boards to keep them playing Test cricket.”

There are no clear answers but Test cricket needs a boost of some sort. It could be a great series, it could be England’s ‘Bazball’ approach; it could even (be seen) with the India-Australia rivalry. It needs to change the pace because, sooner or later, something’s gotta give.”

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