Worrying to see interest in Test cricket dwindle

To see the Test series between England and India completely slipping under the radar in England, in terms of the media and social media conversation, is very sad.

I’m a purist. One of the greatest achievements of my career was reaching 100 Test match caps. The literal blood, sweat and tears that go into a Test career are what makes the longest format the best.

It now feels like interest in the format, ahead of a series between two giants of the game, is dwindling and it’s really worrying.

I understand the commercial structure around the shorter forms of the game. I am very happy to be working on The Hundred and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

But the satisfaction of having played 100 Tests far outweighs anything I ever achieved in the shorter formats.

From that standpoint, I’m incredibly worried about the state of Test match cricket.

My solution

I proposed on social media this week that four-day cricket in England needs to be franchised to increase both the quality and popularity of the game.

The standard of county cricket is rubbish. Plain and simple.

The best of the best would play against each other every single week, with eight to 10 matches played per team every season.

The rest, who shouldn’t be playing first-class cricket, can go and play minor counties and improve their game.

If they are desperate enough, work hard enough and are talented enough, they will break into the first-class structure.

I won’t settle for mediocrity. I never did as a player and I won’t now. There are too many first-class cricketers in this country – far too many.

We should be able to produce opening batsmen who come into international cricket and clean up, but we don’t. Why? Because the standard of county cricket is rubbish. Plain and simple.

I scored 350 against Leicestershire for Surrey a few years ago and, honestly, I had faced better club bowling. That’s the reality.

Part of the disinterest towards this series, I think, is that the England team just isn’t capturing anybody’s imagination.

At the moment, England don’t have a top three that could possibly compare to Strauss, Cook and Trott. They don’t have a spinner.

When the best of the best play against each other, the strength and depth improves.

It would also incentivise the best players to reconnect with English domestic cricket. As an overseas player, why would you drive up and down the country on small money playing four-day cricket in the cold when you can earn hundreds of thousands in a quickfire franchise competition?

The format has to be made fun again and that happens by creating an elite competition that everybody wants to play in.

Generally, I had lots of support when I put this proposal out. I had one reply about online streaming numbers in county cricket, but I’m not interested in streaming numbers. I’m interested in raising the quality and profile of long-form cricket, and at the moment not enough people are really interested.

Some people will always dismiss progressive thinking and new ways of developing the game, and some people just want to disagree with everything I say! That’s fine, that’s their issue, but the issue we should all be thinking about is how to revive interest in Test cricket.

Ben Stokes withdrawal proves there is too much cricket

I have huge sympathy with Ben Stokes withdrawing from this Test series because the players are simply being asked to do too much.

Some of the guys in this squad – Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and so on – have just been playing in The Hundred and now they pivot to a Test series.

There’s a hell of a lot more cricket than there used to be and needs to be, and that’s just for the viewer, let alone the players.

Players will continue to pick their schedules and I think that has to be encouraged, otherwise we’re going to see more of them drop out of the game entirely for a while like Stokes has chosen to do.

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