Test bats on despite Twenty20

Australia’s Twenty20 Big Bash League continue to grow year by year. Photo Lachlan Ballingall
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Many lovers of Test cricket still believe the newest format of the game, Twenty20, is destroying the traditional Test cricket, but that is not the case, as Lachlan Ballingall reports.

 

When Twenty20 cricket first arrived in the early 2000s to revitalise the sport as a whole, Adam Collins had doubts about the negative impact it could have on Test cricket.

Being a freelance cricket journalist, he is very much a traditionalist who has grown up loving the longest format of the game.

Like many he values the traditions of Test cricket such as the white clothing with the red ball. But many cricket fans now believe these long-standing protocols have given way to the colourful clothing and the white ball used in Twenty20 cricket.

What has surprised Collins is that Twenty20 cricket has grown on him and he believes it isn’t affecting Test cricket negatively as most think.

“Every single measured person who understands modern cricket has shifted in that view. I don’t know a single anti-Twenty20 warrior now. Those who do don’t have a clue,” Collins said.

Adam Collins on the right commentating cricket in England. Photo Adam Collins.

“Originally, idiots like me thought that it was a choice between Test and Twenty20 cricket.”

Twenty20 cricket has been on the rise. It now has an international Twenty20 World Cup alongside various franchise competitions played across the world, more notably the Big Bash League in Australia and the Indian Premier League in India.

It has become this generation’s favourite format of the game with its entertaining and quick nature.

Twenty overs to bat and bowl – it’s that simple. Test cricket on the other hand is five-days of play for 90 overs. There is a significant difference between the two formats.

People can go to a Twenty20 match for a few hours and still get a good night’s sleep before work or school the next day, so it’s no surprise many had fears about the state of Test cricket when Twenty20 cricket was first introduced.

Twenty20 cricket can also offer a massive payday for professional cricketers and sometimes the lure is too much to refuse.

Yet, despite Twenty20’s popular nature, Test cricket has still managed to gain the highest television audience for a session of cricket over the recent summer in Australia, according to Cricket Australia.

A total of 2.189 million watched the final session of the fourth day of the day-night Adelaide Test match, which shows that Test cricket isn’t plummeting as some might think.

So is Test cricket really on a downward spiral due to the popularity of Twenty20 cricket as many media outlets like to report?

Collins now says he believes that Twenty20 cricket benefits Test cricket and more people need to understand that.

“The idea that Twenty20 cricket erodes Test cricket neglects that short form cricket is where the kids and women and potential new customers for Test cricket are,” said Collins.

“The Test cricket audience is dying without Twenty20. That’s how we need to think about this. It’s not a competition. That’s the mindset bound to kill Tests.”

Nuwan Ranasinghe, a passionate cricket fan and occasional columnist for RealSport, said the negative hysteria around Twenty20 cricket and its threat to take over Test cricket is uneducated.

“There was a time when I thought Test cricket was going to suffer when I saw the popularity of Twenty20 rise exponentially like a rocket heading for the moon,” said Ranasinghe.

“To me, despite the juggernaut threat of Twenty20, Test cricket seems to be at a very healthy state right now and as long we continue to see competitive, high quality matches, the game’s longest format will be preserved.”

The recent Test series between India and Australia in the subcontinent saw a record-breaking television audience of 1.1 billion gross impressions across the four Test matches, according to Star India.

There are those who do worry about the attendance numbers in stadiums, but the fact Test cricket is mainly played during working days certainly impacts that.

Daniel Lang, cricket editor for RealSport, says most people would love to go to a Test match, but ultimately struggle due to the hours and days the games are played.

“Getting to Test cricket can be hard. People can’t always spend a whole day down at the ground watching a Test and it often shows,” said Lang.

“Twenty20 cricket comes perfectly packaged for social nights out and family entertainment. You can look at the first few days of the Sydney or Melbourne Tests and remain confident that Test cricket still has pulling power, especially when England are in town.”

Test cricket has traditionally always been played during the day, but 2015 saw the introduction of day-night Test cricket to add a bit of life into it when Australia played against New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval.

It proved to be a big hit with Nuwan Ranasinghe. “Changes like having day-night Test matches are a great way to increase attendance levels,” said Ranasinghe.

“It means that people have a chance to come to the ground after school or work to watch the game without missing most of the action.”

Despite Test cricket remaining in a strong position due to changes such as day-night Test cricket, there are people who have doubts about some players’ motives.

Recently, an English professional cricketer named Ben Stokes went for $2.8 million in the Indian Premier League auction for the 2017 season.

The Indian Premier League season runs in-between April and May. It’s a fair payday for such a short period of cricket and there are other Twenty20 competitions that run throughout the year similar to the Indian Premier League, so the payday is always around.

The West Indies in particular has had cricketers in recent times turn away from representing their nation in the Test arena to instead play Twenty20 cricket around the world due to excessive offers they receive.

Ultimately, these professional cricketers can set themselves up for the rest of their lives by playing Twenty20 cricket.

Daniel Lang said that although Test cricket is healthy, there will always be players who find Twenty20 cricket attractive due to the money.

“It certainly is a large part of the appeal from a player’s perspective,” said Daniel.

“You look at the Indian Premier League and you have a setup right now where a player can go to India for eight weeks, not play a single game and still earn $1 million.”

Collins though is adamant that there is nothing to worry about when it comes to professional cricketers and the lure of a payday on the Twenty20 circuit.

“Ask a cricketer like Glenn Maxwell what form of cricket he prefers playing. He makes millions – literally millions – playing Twenty20 franchise cricket,” said Collins.

“Yet it is Test cricket he wants to play in most. That’s essentially how it is for anyone.”