A survey conducted by the MCC World Cricket Committee suggested that cricket fans still prefer Test matches over limited-over formats. The survey was conducted in over 100 nations and MCC stated that more than 86 per cent fans placed the longer format of the game above ODIs and T20s.
The committee, after concluding their annual meeting in Bengaluru on Saturday, announced that over 13,000 cricket enthusiasts were contacted during the survey. A majority among the 13,000 fans were from England, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
It was found that the boost in the popularity of red-ball cricket was the recent series wins secured by visiting nations over the hosts. New Zealand overpowered Pakistan in UAE, England’s victory in Sri Lanka, India’s maiden Test series win over Australia in their backyard and the historic series win by Sri Lanka in South Africa have encouraged fans to shift their interest from limited-overs to Test cricket.
Shane Warne, who is a member of the committee, while speaking to Cricbuzz stated that he was ‘staggered’ by the results. “What we want to make sure is that Test cricket is a priority for every single country. I was staggered by the statistics. Which is great that there is interest in there. I like that because I thought it wasn’t that popular,” the former Australian leggie said.
He further stated, “It’s now how we get the people to attend the games. It’s about how can we better the in-stadium experiences, the pricing of the tickets, how can we get the families involved – all those sorts of things. For India, maybe try Day-Night Tests here. In actual fact, the state of Test cricket is very healthy. There are a lot of people watching and the TV rights are going for a lot. There’ so much interest in Test cricket that it warms the heart.”
Former Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara feels that the administrators should make use of the shifting trend and work towards solidifying the future of Test cricket. “With superstars like Virat Kohli leading India to a first-ever Test series win in Australia and winning three ICC awards, including 2018 Cricketer of the Year, there’s a real opportunity – and responsibility – for us all to cement the future of our superb longer form,” he said.
“And great Test series like the Windies’ win over England and Sri Lanka’s win in South Africa show there’s huge competition amongst the top countries at the moment and it makes for exciting competition. It is brilliant news fans are backing the great cricket being played the world over,” he added.
Mike Gatting, who’s the chairman of MCC, lauded the contribution of Virat Kohli and South African skipper Faf du Plessis in raising the popularity of the format. “”Having the support of stars such as Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis will encourage a whole new generation to follow Test cricket. Virat has expressed his commitment to maintaining the position of Test cricket at the top of the sport, while off the back of South Africa’s one-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka Faf insisted such matches demonstrate Test cricket is still the number one format,” he said.
“When you have high-profile leaders like Virat and Faf being part of hugely exciting series, it shows what Test cricket can be. It is easy to see why the format is viewed as the pinnacle of our sport and we want to see it future-proofed and that could include looking at more day/night Tests, which we can see there is a big demand for, especially in Asia.”
The committee also stressed on the use of the Dukes ball in the ICC World Test Championship. The Dukes ball is used in England and in the Caribbean, while the other Test playing nations prefer playing with the Kookaburra ball.
“What we discussed was now that we have the ICC Test Championship, it should be fair for everyone. Let’s get all the balls – the Dukes, the Kookaburra, the SG ball – and work out what the best ball is. Our recommendation is that the same ball should be used in all the Test Championship matches starting with the Ashes later this year. Whatever ball that is,” Warne said.