Drysdale’s Column

Those of us who love Test cricket are surely entitled to feel anxious about the dwindling attendances at the majority of matches on the schedules these days.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 13: England take to field after lunch during the 1st Test between Pakistan and England at Zayed Cricket Stadium on October 13, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)All through the winter, a variety of global TV commentators have employed different words – including “sparse”, “disappointing” and “patchy” – to describe the number of spectators at games in South Africa, the West Indies and New Zealand.

But perhaps we should can the euphemisms and cut to the chase.

Yesterday, prior to the start of the First Test at Headingly, the ECB’s Colin Graves confirmed that a day-night Test will be staged in England sooner rather than later.

His announcement coincided with the news that Somerset and Essex have already sold 94% and 79% of their total tickets allocations for this year’s T20 Blast in England, which starts on Friday.

Ticket sales in 2016 are up by a third: a statistic to leave us old fogeys sobbing quietly into our ale.

Sadly, though, there is no denying the evidence after spending a winter watching cricket across the globe on Sky. All those empty arenas and near-deserted auditoriums suggests many cricket aficionados don’t want to wait for tension to build up or drama to unfold  over a protracted time.
daynight
They are seeking instant thrills, crash-bang action and have no appetite for slow-burning fare.

To some extent, the authorities have created this rod for their own backs by talking up Twenty20 and encouraging the development of the IPL, BPL, Big Bash and no end of other global tournaments which are the sporting equivalent of fast food.

When so much attention is focused on one format and when even many commentators are bemoaning the alleged sterility of 50-over ODIs, is it any wonder that many paying customers are restricting their interest to pyjama contests?

But the consequences will be grievous if the present trend continues downwards. Tests, after all, should be the ultimate challenge, the critique by which the great are distinguished from the good over four or five days.

But, on recent evidence, the younger generation doesn’t want to know. And while the grounds will always be at full capacity for an Ashes battle, that will be the exception to the general rule.

If I was a betting man, I would wager that Tests won’t exist in their current format a decade hence. Five days of 90 overs is too often wrapped up prematurely and I believe the ICC will reduce these matches to four days of 100 overs, with floodlights brought into the equation.

What seems pretty clear is that the structure won’t survive without some major tweaks and less emphasis on quick thrills.

The Ashes has history in spades and there is no danger of unsold tickets when or if India meet Pakistan in the Test milieu in the future.

But even I couldn’t be bothered to persist with watching the Windies batter and bewilder hapless Zimbabwe in the Caribbean a few years ago and too many of these recent series – involving the likes of New Zealand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – are being staged in auditoriums where Shergar and Lord Lucan could be sitting in the stand and nobody would notice them, because there is nobody there.

It is a pressing concern for the panjandrums. And a pivotal priority for those who oversee the game. Ultimately, Twenty20 has a big place on the calendar and we can’t pretend the spectacle isn’t compelling.

But Tests should remain the Crown Jewels.

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CricIndex has quickly found an audience for our weekly podcasts and it’s refreshing to hear so much debate about Scottish cricket at club level.

Yet one thing has been noticeable this week and that has been the significant number of people who have told me they wish Ireland’s redoubtable and risk-taking CEO Warren Deutrom had been working in Edinburgh, not Dublin, for the last decade.

I agree. Not least because Deutrom took the time to expand on his vision and admitted he had battled against old-fashioned attitudes when he first picked up the reins – Click Here to listen to Deutrom’s excellent podcast

Thankfully, his vision prospered, because he was determined to spread the gospel outwith the old environs.

You can’t really say the same for some of his Scottish counterparts.

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There were some understandable grumbles from a few clubs, following our Scottish Cup podcast this week.

I expressed the view that the competition format wasn’t ideal, given the number of one-sided contests which were served up last Sunday.

I also voiced concern about the fact so many teams were understrength at this early stage of the season. Yet I do have sympathy for the likes of Marchmont, who might have crashed to a heavy defeat, but possess the attitude you can’t have shocks and surprises in any Cup if you only allow the status quo entry to the party.

I still remember playing in the 1980s when Atlas skittled the opposition for 24 one afternoon and we thought we would finish early. Well, we did…..but only because we were routed for 15!

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