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Chris Waters: Why Tests are no longer in the pink

New balls please: The pink Dukes ball being used at Edgbaston.
New balls please: The pink Dukes ball being used at Edgbaston.
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THE pink-ball game taking place at Edgbaston is another attempt to popularise Test cricket.

The experiment has worked overseas, where it has gained favourable feedback, but with Test cricket already alive and kicking in this country, it remains to be seen whether there is a need for pink-ball cricket over here other than to reciprocate and prepare for such fixtures abroad.

Writing as one who primarily enjoys Test cricket, I am all for any attempt to boost its appeal. But while I understand the pink-ball experiment, I must confess that I have never subscribed to the view that Test cricket needs a World Test Championship to give it more meaning, or that this would draw in the crowds.

Chris Waters

With crowds declining in such places as New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies, and with more players choosing to play in lucrative T20 leagues over Tests, there are also moves towards a World Test Championship.

This, it is argued, would give Test cricket more context and help to promote it, with the competition perhaps running over a two-year period with points riding on every match before semi-finals and a final.

Writing as one who primarily enjoys Test cricket, I am all for any attempt to boost its appeal. But while I understand the pink-ball experiment, I must confess that I have never subscribed to the view that Test cricket needs a World Test Championship to give it more meaning, or that this would draw in the crowds.

For in an era of declining attention spans and myriad competing attractions, who on earth is going to follow a competition in which it takes two years for the winner to be known?

Who is going to care, for instance, whether New Zealand’s 2-1 win over Sri Lanka in 2021 moves them up from seventh to fifth in a tournament that might still have another 18 months or more to run at that point?

Test cricket is not like the County Championship, which is over in six months and condensed into England and Wales and steeped in parochial traditions. Each Test match is scheduled to last for the equivalent of a full working week, and each Test series takes place over many weeks or months in the relevant country. There is a different type of connection between Test cricket and its spectators.

In recent times, we have heard much about England’s ambition to become the world’s No 1 side, but how significant is that to the average cricket fan?

Would they celebrate joyfully if England became world No 1 as Yorkshire’s supporters, for example, celebrated joyfully the 2014 and 2015 County Championship titles, or Huddersfield Town’s supporters last season’s promotion to the Premier League? My guess is that it would be neither here nor there to most observers, who would care much more, for example, whether England won the Ashes.

Test cricket, in my view, is gloriously unique. Frustratingly for the marketing men, it does not lend itself to any context beyond the series at hand. Granted, the semi-finals and final of a World Test Championship would be interesting, but the long preamble would surely be meaningless.

Test cricket faces a threat to its future not from a lack of context but – surprise, surprise – from T20 and changing trends. If it eventually dies out, it will not be down to the lack of a league table.

In reality, little can be done to safeguard it other than to champion it for all it is worth and to back it as much as possible.

It is obviously out of step in an era in which people increasingly prefer games that last for no more than 40 overs.

I am not one of those people, but there is no magic wand that can change the facts of the matter.