Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland believes Tests will remain the game’s showpiece events. (AP: Andy Brownbill)
A slow first day at the MCG and a poor Boxing Day wicket reignited the debate that so frequently swirls around Test cricket, and its longevity in a cluttered and congested landscape.
The concerns are nothing new to Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, who — along with his English counterpart Tom Harrison — played a large part in the creation of the Test cricket championship.
Naturally a cricketing optimist, Sutherland is confident the longest form can hold its place at the pinnacle of the game, but knows in this day and age, entertainment is what sells — and the groundsmen have a big part to play.
“I think in a broad statement pitches are incredibly important to the future of Test cricket,” Sutherland said.
“We need to provide an entertaining contest, we need to provide a balance between bat and ball and I think we’ve broadly seen that in the three Test matches so far this summer.
“[Day one] was a dour day’s play.
“But Test cricket is like that sometimes, it’s a real battle and players need to work through those difficult times.”
Like Sutherland, Harrison looks at the global game with the glass half full, and he too believes the moves the ICC is making will help protect the Test format in the future.
Sutherland says entertaining cricket is built from the ground up, with good pitches. (AAP: Mal Fairclough)
“It’s an astonishing achievement to get this amount of people watching Test cricket and a great advert for where we are,” Harrison said.
“But the Ashes series is definitely not the standard marker for what Test cricket is actually facing around the world.
“James and I are involved with a very similar debate at ICC to make sure that Test cricket is relevant, it has context and the conditions under which it is played can guarantee as much as is possible a fantastic entertainment for fans around the world.”
Four-day and day-night Tests still up for debate
Cricket is in a rapid period of transition not seen since the days of World Series, and the branches of change are reaching all the way to Test cricket.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are currently in the midst of a trial four-day Test, with many believing that change could be the catalyst for more aggressive and engaging Tests.
Sutherland is interested, but not convinced.
“I’m certainly an advocate for the trial,” Sutherland said.
“I think it’s really important to understand more about Test cricket, the right playing conditions and the right way in which the game can be played.
“But from our perspective the Test championship, when it’s inaugurated in 2019, will be played as a five-day competition.”
And what about another day-night Ashes Test when the contest moves to the UK in 2019?
“It’s to be decided, but it’s unlikely, to be honest,” Harrison said.
“I think we’ve got a format that works brilliantly well for us in Ashes cricket in the UK.
“Right time, right place, right conditions are the rules for day-night Test cricket, I think we’ll wait and see, but it’s unlikely I would say.”