London: The strategy of the International Cricket Council is to ensure that all three formats of the game survive and thrive, International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive David Richardson has stressed.
Richardson, in his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture on Monday, touched upon the importance of growing the game globally, an ICC report on Tuesday said.
"We need to ensure that cricket is not elitist but is accessible to and capable of being enjoyed by all," he said. "It is also necessary to provide opportunities for people to watch and follow the game."
Elaborating on the theme in a panel discussion after the speech, he said Twenty20 cricket was the way forward to taking the game to new shores. "In the US, for them, watching Test cricket is like watching paint dry. Come up, run, bowl, shoulder arms."
However, that didn't mean the end of Test and one-day international cricket, Richardson insisted. "Our new strategy is to make sure the three formats survive well into the future, if we can."
Dipping into results of a recent survey, he pointed out, "We've got over a billion fans, and 68 per cent of those fans are interested in all three formats. So this is not a case of T20s taking over. People want to watch Test cricket, ODI cricket, and T20s. So it's something to work with."
Giving the example of India, which has the biggest audience for the sport, he pointed out that while the Indian Premier League could very well be commercially sustained for six months, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had resisted the temptation to do so. "They've always said Test cricket is important to them, 50 overs is important to them, and so far they've always been behind keeping all three formats going."
Speaking specifically about red-ball cricket, Richardson agreed that while day-night Tests would address the issue of accessibility to an extent, it would take more work, and the context provided by the ICC Test Championship would help.
"Day-night Tests will be great, but it won't be the saviour of Test cricket," he said. "It's more about how we market Test cricket. It's playing on selected weekends, maybe long weekends when people are available to come and watch. It's giving context to Test matches.
"I'm exceptionally excited about the Test league that is now being introduced, it starts after the World Cup next year ? two-year league, nine teams, and the two teams at the top of the table at the end of it play each other in the final, probably at Lord's.
"Back in the '70s, they had that centenary Test. Even living in South Africa, I remember the hype that went with it. If we can create that atmosphere every two years, top Test teams playing each other in a one-off Test at Lord's, and hopefully being crowned Test champions at the end of it ? to me, that would be something to really aim for."(UNI)