England fast bowler James Anderson has echoed the sentiment of a string of former and current international cricketers, who have feared for the future of Test cricket.
The ongoing Test match between South Africa and Australia at Kingsmead in Durban epitomises the sparse crowds experienced at several venues around the world.
A handful of players, meanwhile, have retired from the longest format prolong their limited-overs careers. England’s Adil Rashid is the most recent example.
“South Africa and Australia – that’s potentially the most exciting series around the world,” Anderson says, “but crowds around the world seem to be dwindling.
“It’s a really tricky time for cricket. And yes, I do worry that it could become a one-format game. People have asked for a long time if three formats can survive and, the more time goes on, the less likely it looks. I’d hate to see it. I’d hate to see cricket being a one-format game.”
The growth of domestic Twenty20 leagues across the planet, including the Caribbean Premier League, Indian Premier League and Ausralia’s Big Bash League is a major contributor to the decline of Test match competition’s declining popularity.
“I am not surprised at all. I thought it would happen with the way contracts have gone and I am sure there will be other people that follow in the future,” he added.
“There are incentives in white-ball cricket now, especially being able to play all the Twenty20 stuff around the world. It’s getting quite lucrative in terms of the money you can earn.
“The danger for us is that it becomes, not an epidemic, but popular among players to do this. I do worry if more and more players do this, whether that sets the kind of example we want for younger guys coming through into the game.
“Will they want to go on and play Test cricket and put in the hard graft of playing five days on tough pitches? Or will they want to go forward in a game that would potentially be more lucrative for them?
“If you speak to the young guys coming through, the chance to play Test cricket is still what motivates them. I just worry they will get caught up in T20 as it’s easier on the body and brain. And a lot easier on the pocket as well.”
The 34-year-old Anderson has played 134 Tests, but just 19 T20Is, the last of which was in 2009.