With ICC’s plans to increase awareness for the sport of cricket, they came up with a revolutionary idea, T20 Cricket. Beginning in 2003, the 20 over per side format has been successful is gaining viewers, recognition, and income for the ICC. The T20 format has allowed for many new countries to pick up a cricket bat and make their name in the world, most notably Afghanistan. In 2007, the inaugural T20 World Cup was held with India being crowned winners. The tournament was a complete success with action packed matches, huge amounts of revenue, and a symbol that T20 was here to stay.
The next year, 2008, the first official T20 league appeared, Indian Premier League. The IPL was a hit straight away, recording massive TV revenues, sponsorship deals, and player signings. By offering astronomical sums to players, the IPL has grown to be the most successful league cricket has ever known. With short 4 hour matches, brilliant displays of batting, and a massive output of commercialism, the IPL tops any other league by a huge margin.
Other leagues soon came about trying to seek the IPL’s success. Australia’s Big Bash league was created in 2011, England followed with the NatWest T20 Blast in 2014 (comprising of English counties rather than cities), Caribbean Premier League in 2013, and most notably, Pakistan Super League in 2016. Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and UAE have all created minor T20 Leagues with South Africa and England to announce new T20 leagues. But all this success comes with a cost and sparks a question: Is T20 Cricket killing Test Cricket?
The average attendance to an IPL match is 32,800. However figures in Test Cricket are much lower with average attendance in English County Cricket around just 3,000. As far as TV Ratings go, TV viewership for T20 matches are much higher than viewership for test cricket. The average TV viewrship for IPL is around 30 million, while India’s test competition, the Ranji Trophy, wasn’t even aired at all.
Why exactly has T20 Cricket been massively popular as oppose to test matches? There are two simple answers for this, time and entertainment. A T20 match only takes around 3-4 hours, compared to Test Cricket’s staggering five days. Also, T20 is far more entertaining. The World T20 tournament in India last year had a total of 314 sixes across 35 matches. In test cricket, however, sixes are quite rare throughout the game. The average run rate in T20 is around 7.25, but in test, its around 2 or 3.
Now, with that being said, T20 has done a great job increasing cricket’s place in the world and bringing in revenue for the ICC. In 2015, Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar, and many other legends toured the US playing three T20 matches across the country. The tour turned out to be a great success with all three matches having packed stadiums. But if instead of three T20s, if they had played three Tests, most people wouldn’t have even known the match was going on in the first place. With that being said, however, we need to find a balance between Test and T20 Cricket. Due to the increasing number of T20 leagues around the world, cricket boards like Cricket Australia or New Zealand Cricket have to reschedule their international matches, and have players unavailable for important test matches or series.
West Indies have suffered quite a lot after the introduction of T20. Before T20, West Indies won the ODI World Cup twice and were even regarded as one of the world’s best test cricketing teams. Today, although they’ve won two T20 Cups, they have fell to ninth in the ODI rankings and eighth in test rankings. West Indies biggest stars like Chris Gayle or Sunil Narine have rejected playing for their national team and opted to play for T20 franchises instead. Because of this, many countries are struggling to find match time, improve domestic test cricket, and many countries’ test sides are weakening. T20’s popularity has gone so far that ICC are even suggesting to decrease the amount of tests played in the calendar year.
Originally, cricket was a noble sport, played with noble means. However, that is clearly no longer the case. Players are turning towards T20 for the money, entertainment, the sponsorship, etc. Cricket is no longer played for the love of the game, but rather for fame or recognition, and T20 is the easiest way to achieve that.
Does that mean that T20 must be abolished and test must become the dogma of cricket? No, not necessarily. England and Australia have done excellent jobs balancing test cricket and T20 in their academies, but further steps can be taken to achieve a balance. For one, making TV rights for test cricket free or at least a low cost is a great start. With television companies like Sky or BT Sport paying huge sums to the ECB to show test matches and not even showing full matches, it makes buying the rights for test cricket pointless. Countless times have test matches been not aired for T20 matches to be displayed. Sky have shown the IPL on their main cricket channel while county cricket matches are running at the same time. Rather than watching Middlesex vs Essex, people today are rather interested in watching Delhi Daredevils vs Kolkata Knight Riders. Making television rights cheaper for test matches will allow more channels to broadcast it and spread awareness for the old format.
Another step that can be taken is to lower prices for test matches. Currently, to watch a test at Lord’s is around £40 per day, accumulating to around £200 per test match. Lowering that will attract bigger crowds and increase revenue for cricket boards with a larger test cricket audience.
In conclusion, cricket was made to be a formal sport, but to adapt to the time, some changes were required. However, that doesn’t mean we have to get rid of the old style. A perfect balance is possible. I’m not trying to say T20 is bad for cricket, I’m saying that too much of it can be, and a balance is needed between Test Cricket and T20.