• Cricket

Strauss fears for Test cricket

David Hopps
October 2, 2014
Andrew Strauss believes poor Test cricket attendances have served as a warning signal © Getty Images

Andrew Strauss, the former England captain, and an increasingly influential voice in cricket administration, has issued dire warnings about the survival of Test cricket, predicting that Twenty20 could dominate the landscape within 20 years.

Strauss, who since his retirement has been appointed to the cricket committees of the ICC and MCC as well as sitting on the Middlesex management board, lays part of the blame for Test cricket's potential ills on the restructuring of the ICC.

The deal, which if TV rights deals come to fruition could bring India a ten-fold increase in income, with England and Australia also benefiting financially, will in Strauss' view condemn Test cricket to a growing number of mismatches which will quicken its decline.

Strauss' pessimistic view - particularly notable as it comes from one of the game's avowed traditionalists - comes in an updated paperback edition of his autobiography, Driving Ambition which is published today.

"India can argue that they bring the most money into the game, and thus deserve more out of the precious ICC broadcasting rights, but skewing the distribution of the three boards that are already the most financially secure can only create a situation in which the rich get richer and the poor poorer," Strauss writes.

"With only ten teams playing Test cricket and four of those already struggling to stay competitive, the risk of the game degenerating to the extent that the result of many Test series is a foregone conclusion is both high and real."

Strauss paints a bleak picture of the Test game in which he built his reputation, leading England in 50 of his 100 Tests and gaining a reputation as one of the finest man managers in England's history.

"I have to admit that I become more and more concerned about the plight of Test cricket every year," Strauss admits. "Watching a Test match between the West Indies and New Zealand in an empty stadium with no more than a handful of spectators in attendance sends out warning signals. Seeing that the viewing figures for a county Twenty20 game rival those for a Test match adds to the growing perception that Test cricket is in crisis.

"Part of the new ICC restructure provides a Test fund so that some of the smaller nations can play each other in Test series even though they aren't financially viable. While I definitely welcome this news, I can't help feeling that we have already reached the tipping point as far as Test cricket is concerned.

"The teams will keep playing each other over the next eight years, but aside from iconic series like the Ashes or England v India, I fear that the game is slowly going to fizzle out as a mainstream attraction, especially away from the 'big three' nations.

"It is too late to turn the tide, especially with the glitz and glamour of Twenty20 cricket managing to gain more and more traction every year."

Strauss predicts a future in which the ICC is powerless to prevent control moving towards the T20 franchises. His warning comes in a week when Australia have conceded that their T20 side against Pakistan could be potentially weakened by absentees in the Champions League - another sign of the creeping power shift between club and country.

"It is not a huge stretch of the imagination to see a situation in which most players will be contracted to franchises and play the majority of their cricket in the Twenty20 format," Strauss concludes. "It will not happen for a while , as the international boards will do everything in their power to prevent it, but market forces are likely to win the battle in the long term. In twenty years, the game of cricket will look very different."

Driving Ambition: Andrew Strauss (Hodder & Stoughton) £8.99

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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