NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Test cricket is in robust health after a strong year, the custodians of the game’s laws have said, following a survey in which fans hailed it as the “ultimate” of the game’s three formats.
The future of the long format has been a subject of debate since the rise of Twenty20 leagues across the cricketing globe coincided with dwindling crowds for test matches outside Australia and England.
The lure of quick money has spawned several Twenty20 freelancers while many players have signed white ball-only contracts in English county cricket making their priority very clear.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) surveyed over 13,000 responders from more than 100 countries with an overwhelming 86 percent fans identifying test cricket as their preferred format.
“Responders ... still consider the test format to be the pinnacle of cricket and the favourite format of cricket to attend, follow and watch, with respondents describing the game as the ‘ultimate’ form of cricket,” the MCC said in a statement.
The last couple of months have been a great advertisement for the long form with India registering their first ever test series victory in Australia, West Indies humbling mighty England, and Sri Lanka becoming the first Asian country to win a series in South Africa.
“Test cricket has had the most incredible year and that has contributed to the strong support for test cricket,” Sri Lankan batting great Kumar Sangakkara, a member of the MCC World Cricket Committee, said.
“...there’s huge competition amongst the top countries at the moment and it makes for exciting competition. It is brilliant news fans are backing the great cricket being played the world over.”
The survey also some of the key challenges in increasing attendances at and viewership of test matches, including cost and availability of ticket and increased access in free-to-air TV.
“It is important we listen to cricket fans to continue to improve their experience of test match cricket and address their concerns,” MCC World Cricket committee chairman Mike Gatting said.
“We want to see test cricket continue to thrive, especially as more formats of the sport such as The Hundred and T20 leagues gain popularity,” added the former England captain.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Nick Mulvenney