MCC calling the shots in battle to save Tests

The perilous future of Test cricket was considered twice this week. Initially it was the lame turn of the body who are supposed to run the game. They were soon to be outflanked by the organisation that used to run it and on the evidence of current form ought to make a revolutionary comeback takeover bid as soon as possible. The day after tomorrow might be too late.

It would seem that the International Cricket Council and Marylebone Cricket Club now have vastly differing views about what direction should be taken. Essentially, the ICC are sitting around paying lip service to the problem in places like Singapore, where a Test has never been and never will be played while the MCC world cricket committee, convening at Lord's, the spiritual home of the game, wants to take action now.

Consider the ICC's proposals for Test cricket, if they can be invested with such dignity. With Test match cricket haemorrhaging support everywhere except England, they have been prevaricating for more than a year.

The occasion of the annual conference week, in Singapore as it happens, was when they would finally announce a bold initiative. There would be a properly structured quadrennial world Test championship, perhaps day-night Tests and at least the permanent introduction of the Decision Review System, the latter being already official policy.

Instead of which they postponed, for the fifth time, any constructive action. The mealy-mouthed statement merely said that the chief executives committee and the governance review committee, having had discussions on the programme after 2015, will need more talks in September.

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, said: "Although we have made progress, this exercise requires more work. We know there are exciting opportunities to protect and promote all three formats but we must exercise patience as we consider all aspects in introducing context and content in international cricket."

This overlooks the prospect that by 2015, Test cricket – except in England and when England travel abroad – may have all but expired, ambushed by Twenty20. Indeed it might be defunct by September were it not for the Ashes this winter. Anybody who watched the recent series between West Indies and South Africa, played in empty grounds, could see where the game is headed. Watch any series anywhere and it is abundantly clear that as a live sport, which ultimately is what makes it worthwhile as a televised sport, the Test format has never had it so bad. Blame modern audiences, blame wretched marketing, blame Twenty20 – but, whatever, if you care, something needs to happen.

The day after this timid piece of inaction, the MCC world cricket committee spoke. It said in a way which was as unmealy-mouthed as it is possible to be without breaching the diplomatic code that pertains in these matters: "The MCC world cricket committee fears for the future of Test match cricket and has called for the ICC and its full member countries to better promote the longest and purest form of the game.

"Twelve months after stating the need for a World Test Championship and seven months since presenting a blueprint for such a competition to the ICC, the committee feels that the following necessary action should be taken immediately to reinvigorate Test cricket: ensure that Test matches are played on pitches that offer a fair balance between bat and ball; financially reward players to ensure that Test cricket is an attractive proposition; invest in marketing of the Test game to improve crowd and television audiences."

There is a crucial difference between the composition of the ICC groups discussing this seminal restructuring and the MCC world committee. One former Test cricketer will be involved in the ICC's conversations, David Richardson, their head of cricket. It will otherwise include professional administrators. Whereas the MCC group is chaired by Tony Lewis, who with due respect, is one of its least illustrious members. The rest include former Test cricketers and accomplished men such as Andy Flower, Martin Crowe, Mike Atherton, Rahul Dravid, Majid Khan and, as it happens, Dave Richardson.

MCC are also advocating the immediate introduction of day-night Test cricket, and while the evidence might not be overwhelming following the experiment in the UAE earlier this summer, it nonetheless indicates that they are willing to move decisively.

The former players are not daft. They recognise the lure of T20, but they also see that it cannot exist in a vacuum. Or not yet. MCC have done the necessary research by investigating cricket-viewing patters in India, whose clout only England can come close to matching. Only 11 per cent of cricket watched on television in India last year was Test cricket compared to 33 per cent as recently as 2004.

Once more revealing MCC's acumen, the MCC former players said: "The committee understands that market forces will always dictate what type of cricket spectators want to watch and that you cannot force people to watch Test match cricket. At the moment, however, cricket authorities around the world need to make a more concerted effort to attract audiences to Test cricket."

They can already see T20 gorging on Test cricket's historic remains.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve