Pietersen adds to concerns as Murali quits five-day game

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The Independent Online

Sooner or later, and probably sooner, something will have to be done about Test cricket. Kevin Pietersen became the latest significant player yesterday to cast doubt on the status of the longest, purest form of the game.

As rain delayed the much-awaited Ashes contest in Birmingham, the injured batsman said: "I fear for Test match cricket simply because people are not supporting Tests away from England as much as here. In England we are so fortunate to play in front of full crowds all day, every day. There is no other country where that happens."

Pietersen, interviewed by Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports, suggested that the game's future might lie with Twenty20. He has a lucrative contract to play in the Indian Premier League.

"When we go to play Australia in Australia you get full houses," he said. "I watched the South Africa series very closely in Australia, because obviously we're playing them next, and you don't get full houses there. You look at the series in South Africa when Australia were in South Africa, there were three, four, 5,000 people watching a day of Test match cricket.

"And that for me shows people are now swaying away from Test match cricket to starting to watch the Twenty20 format of the game which is pulling in everybody. That's the thing that frightens me, because as soon as the support goes and the spectators go, it's going to be difficult to keep playing the game. And players are going to be wanting to play the game where you get all the support."

As if to back up Pietersen's views, the all-time leading Test wicket taker, Sri Lanka's spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, yesterday announced that he is to call time on his Test career after next year's series against the West Indies. He will, however, rather predictably, continue to play one-day internationals and Twenty20 games for several years to come.

MCC's World Cricket Committee, which comprises 20 of the game's most illustrious recent players, has already expressed its fears for the future of Tests. It is urging a review of the game, which could mean matches being reduced to four days and, in some cases, being played at night.