Geoff Boycott – Mr Forward defensive push – says “test cricket is in trouble” and Dublin Hurlers will be back.

Geoffrey Boycott: England’s joy cannot disguise gloomy long-term outlook for Test cricket I am thrilled and delighted by the England team’s performances this summer. But it is a shame that they have risen to No 1 in the world in an era when other countries’ Test teams are declining.

On the wane: it has been one disappointment after another for Sachin Tendulkar this summer

England can only play and beat what is put in front of them. It’s not their fault that others are failing to match their high standards. But the timing is unfortunate for two reasons.

First, because testing yourselves against powerful opposition is more fun than lording it over a bunch of inadequate rivals.

Secondly, and more importantly, every hammering that England inflict on this feeble Indian side is deepening the problems of the world game.

Speaking to people in the Indian media, they tell me that the viewers back home are switching off in their millions.

The punters wanted to see the great Sachin Tendulkar score his 100th international hundred.
Related Articles

14 Aug 2011

What they are seeing instead is a rout. “Why should we watch this rubbish,” they ask themselves, “when there will be another one-day tournament or 20-over thrash along in a minute?”

‘So what if the Indian fans don’t like losing?’ you might reply. Well, it wouldn’t be an issue if Test cricket was a thriving sport which everyone wanted to watch. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

India’s financial might is the biggest thing cricket has going for it, from a business point of view, and everyone will suffer if their spectators become disillusioned.

India are the paymasters of cricket. Every time their board auctions a TV rights package, at least five broadcasters bid. And those same broadcasters provide vital funding for other countries when India tour abroad. So if India sneezes, the whole world catches a cold.

I’m not suggesting that England should bowl long-hops to Sachin at The Oval just to keep the viewers on the sub-continent happy. But I am worried about the long-term future of Test matches.

When you look at the sort of cricket most teams are playing, and the vast acres of empty seats, you have to say that the game is in crisis.

Following cricket from your living room, it is easy to kid yourself and pretend that everything is OK.

The England team play to full houses, despite expensive ticket prices, so the ECB makes well over £1 million from each Test. And when you turn on the TV to watch the winter tours, the grounds always seem to be healthily populated.

Yet those pictures beamed back from Cape Town or Bridgetown or Colombo are deceptive, because England have a regular overseas following of 8-10,000 fans.

Just try watching a Test when England are not involved. The best recent example applied to India’s tour of the West Indies in June and
July: the grounds were deserted.

This decline in Test attendances has been going on for years, but it has been accelerated by the rise of Twenty20. The five-day game is losing out to its upstart younger brother, and it is not just the fans who are affected.

Young players see the riches on offer, the excitement of the spectacle, and dream of a 20-over career.

Then you have the local difficulties in various parts of the world.
Nobody will tour Pakistan because of the threat of terrorism, Zimbabwe has been racked by political strife, and Kumar Sangakkarra spoke recently of the financial irregularities afflicting Sri Lanka.

The result is a two-tier Test structure. Economics dictate which four countries rank in the top division of the world game. India and England are the two powerhouses, while Australia can still raise a decent sum for their TV rights, even if money is getting tighter over there.

South Africa come in fourth, despite increasing problems when it comes to putting bums on seats. As for the rest, they barely have a dollar to scrape together between them.

TV may be holding the game together through the money provided by Sky and other broadcasters, but it is also part of the problem.

As coverage gets more and more sophisticated, the motivation to pay your money and travel to the match is shrinking.

You can sit at home, enjoy the super slo-mo and the Hawk-Eye graphics and make a convincing argument that you have a better view than the man in the stand.

As crowds shrink and income falters, administrators look to pack in ever more series, especially if they involve money-spinning visitors like India or England.

That explains why the Indians have been on the go non-stop since the beginning of the year. The only break in their touring schedule was for the IPL, and it is hard to see players pulling out of that.

Gautam Gambhir, for instance, receives £1.5 million for just over a month’s work. On a week-by-week basis, that makes him better paid than a Premier League footballer. Is it any wonder that the Indians have looked tired and jaded on this tour?

The result has been a disappointing series which promised to be a thriller but ended up further damaging the brand of Test cricket.

The whole thing is a mess, and I do not have much faith in the ICC to come up with the right answers. In a few decades’ time, I doubt if Test cricket will exist in its current form.

I believe there is a good chance that the Ashes will endure, because of the unique history of that series.

Maybe England will continue to play Australia every two years, and the event will take on a unique status, like the Ryder Cup in golf. But for many other countries, the future looks bleak.