‘Wrong to say Test cricket is dying’ – David Richardson

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ICC chairman Shashank Manohar might feel Test cricket is dying, but David Richardson, the global cricket body’s chief executive, says he has numbers to show that view is incorrect. According to Richardson, based on a survey the ICC carried out last year, Test cricket has a strong and committed fan base of about 700 million, which is close to 68% of the global fan pool of over a billion.
Without countering his boss, Richardson said Manohar was only suggesting that Test cricket, with the exponential growth of T20, was dying for a context, and the forthcoming World Test Championship would provide that context.
“We are trying to see whether Test championship can generate interest,” Manohar had said during his visit to Bangaladesh earlier this month. “Because Test cricket is actually dying to be honest.”
Manohar also said fans were finding it difficult to find “five days” to go and watch Test cricket at a venue; instead they preferred three-and-a-half-hours of T20 cricket, a format that has also generated a strong interest from the broadcasters based on the peaking television rating points (TRP).
Manohar’s comments seemed a bit misplaced considering Test cricket was in the middle of a period full of thrilling contests and significant results. First there was India’s historic Test series win in Australia. Then came West Indies’ shock 2-1 win at home against a fancied England side, and most recently Sri Lanka became the first Asian team to win a Test series in South Africa.
Still, according to Richardson, the format lacks the kind of context that could make audiences sit up and take notice of matches not involving their teams – context that the WTC could provide.
“What he [Manohar] was meaning to say is Test cricket was calling out for more context,” Richardson told ESPNcricinfo in London recently, during the 100-day countdown for the World Cup. “Yes, there are some iconic contests that take place from time to time, but really, unless you are a part of or a fan of the participating teams that particular series had no real interest (to fans globally).
“And with the introduction of the World Test Championship, that adds interest and helps to promote the Test game worldwide no matter who is playing. That is what he was saying: Test cricket needed just that added boost, it needed to be promoted and the World Test Championship hopefully is the answer to that.”
To understand the pulse of the global cricket fan the ICC conducted a market-research survey last year which threw up some compelling numbers that told the game’s administrators that the T20 format was clearly the driver for the game’s growth globally. The survey revealed that cricket enjoys a fanbase of over a billon globally across all three formats.
Richardson said the survey also highlighted why Test cricket was alive as two-thirds of the global fan base still had time to support the longer format.
“In many countries Test cricket is still very closely followed,” he said. “We have got more than a billion fans that follow cricket – 68% of them are fans of all three formats of the game, which means that close to 700 million people are fans of Test cricket. So it is wrong to say that Test cricket is dying. It is harder for people to go to five days of a Test match, spend every day sitting there for six hours.
“Maybe the way that people are following Test cricket is different to what it was say 10, 20 years ago. But I don’t think it is dying. The [World] Test Championship, though, will provide more context and more interest and just be an extra hat peg that we can hang our hats on.”