Boycott warns Test cricket ‘dying’

LONDON: England great Geoffrey Boycott warned on Tuesday Test cricket was “dying” around the world because of a lack of spectator interest and said radical action was needed to revitalise the five-day game.

The former opening batsman said crowds at Ashes matches masked the dwindling attendances for Tests elsewhere in the world, with even the recent series between South Africa and Australia, arguably the two strongest teams around, failing to sell-out.

Boycott said: “If you’re watching England against Australia this summer, we’re all seduced into believing Test is fine because you could sell Test match cricket twice over for huge amounts of money because its the oldest form of Test match cricket and has history and tradition. But every other series around the world there are declining attendances and there have been declining attendances for many years,” the Yorkshireman added.

The MCC cricket committee, which is made-up of former and current international players such as Australia’s Steve Waugh and India’s Rahul Dravid, called for a World Test Championship similar to the World Championships that exist in 50-over and Twenty20 cricket, to reignite interest. Although there are world Test rankings, which do ultimately lead to a team being declared the best side in the world, they have yet to become part of the fabric of the game.

“Test cricketers want to be able to say they’re the world champions of Test cricket,” said Waugh. “We can say it in the Twenty20 and 50-over game but Test cricket continues on and on. Something definitely needs to be done to lift the profile of Test cricket. Most players still believe it is the pinnacle of the game and why not reward that every couple of years with a Test cricket championship or a trophy you’ve won.”

Boycott added: “The idea is not just to have a world championship but to package it better.” The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced last month it was considering the possibility of trialling a day/night Test in 2010. Fixtures under floodlights have helped Twenty20 become a popular format because spectators can attend matches without having to take so much time off work and Boycott said: “Maybe we have a coloured ball or we have day-night matches, which people have been on about for ages but never do anything about. We need to get some interest going and look at the way they have marketed Twenty20, but somebody has to try and do something.” It is more than 40 years since MCC ceased running English cricket but it retains global responsibility for the sport’s laws.