Kevin Pietersen: The ICC must act now to save Test cricket
Cheaper tickets, more day-night matches and better-paid players would help Test matches become as popular as T20s again, says the four-time Ashes winner, speaking with sports bookmaker Betway.
T20 series highlighted Test match struggles
The T20 series between South Africa and England highlighted to me that a lot needs to happen in the Test match arena to gain the traction and support that the format deserves.
I was incredibly surprised to see how busy the stadiums were for the T20s because I just didn’t think that the support for cricket in South Africa was that good.
If it hadn’t been for the Barmy Army, the grounds for the Test matches would have been empty, so it came as a pleasant shock.
That tells me that we have to try our hardest to get Test match cricket back to where it belongs. We’ve got to make sure that players are committed to Test matches and that all the youngsters are wanting to play Test match cricket.
The ICC have got to break down the reasons why people aren’t going to the matches and make sure that they solve them.
South African spectators paid their money for the T20 games during England’s tour. They’ve all chosen a fantastic experience they don’t think they get with Test matches.
What is the solution?
It’s the role of the ICC to sort out ticket prices so that people can afford to come. The ICC have got a hell of a lot of money and so have lots of the boards.
These broadcast deals are fairly substantial.
I think that the players need be paid a hell of a lot more, because the lure of the quick dollar in T20 cricket is attracting a lot of youngsters.
If those youngsters can see that the best players in the world are being paid the most money to play Test match cricket than people might start changing their ambitions.
We may need to look at playing a lot more day-night Test cricket so that people can finish work and come to the ground.
As one of the best players in the world you want to play in front of full houses, and they don’t get to do that when playing Test match cricket at the moment.
Specific Test matches like Newlands, or Melbourne and Sydney in Australia are OK. And in England, Test match cricket is supported really well.
But look at all other Test matches. The Johannesburg Test match was poorly supported a few weeks ago. People are working and can’t watch the cricket.
With day-night cricket you can bring the kids in for the second session, you can have fireworks, music and entertainment, and the players would need to adapt.
They’ve got names and numbers on their shirts, and they’ve proved they can play at night with the pink ball.
Pay them more and play it at a better time than everybody will commit to the format much more.
England are full of match-winners
The nature of T20 cricket is that all the wickets are absolute roads.
Look at the pitches in India, in Perth, at the Oval. It’s hard to bowl on those pitches.
That said, England have got so many match-winners that it’s the most brilliant team to watch.
When you know that on any particular day they can stand up and be counted, that they trust each other’s practice and trust each other’s work, then it’s a pretty good situation to be in.
Eoin Morgan proved his worth in that last T20, but you had Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Moeen Ali and others do it throughout the series as well.
Faf du Plessis has had a lot to put up with
Faf du Plessis has had to put with so many things in the past couple of years, so it was inevitable that his form was going to suffer.
They took the white-ball captaincy off him, so automatically he thought it was maybe time to rethink his position as Test captain, too.
How long he’ll last as a player, it’s hard to say.
Maybe now he is released from the captaincy he will get back to playing his way, having a clear mind and watching the ball.
In the last couple of years he hasn’t been watching the ball, he’s been too engrossed and engulfed in politics and what’s happening off the field in South African cricket.
Players generally don’t last long once they become a soldier again after being the sergeant, but that’s up to him.
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