Aus vs Pak – Pat Cummins – ‘Test cricket’s decline not as dramatic as it sometimes gets spoken about’


Pat Cummins doesn’t believe the decline in the popularity of Test cricket is “as dramatic as it sometimes gets spoken about”, but admits he does get worried about the future of the five-day game at times. His team-mate Usman Khawaja pointed to the lack of pay parity across the cricket world and said international cricket and Test cricket had to be “incentivised” for players that aren’t paid as well.

“My hopes are that it’s even stronger than it is now, in ten years’ time or 20 years’ time,” Cummins told reporters ahead of Australia’s third Test against Pakistan in Sydney. “I think in some regards leading to this Test summer, some of the question marks were against Pakistan and West Indies. We’ve had two fantastic Test matches against Pakistan, really well supported, big crowds.

“So I don’t think it’s in as dramatic a decline as sometimes it gets spoken about. But I think there is an issue just with the amount of other cricket out there, obviously competition for talent is higher than it’s ever been.”

Discussions around the future of Test cricket resurfaced late last week when South Africa announced a patchwork squad for their two-Test series in New Zealand in early February. With many first-choice players engaged in the SA20 league at the time, the uncapped Neil Brand has been named captain. The 14-member squad has seven uncapped players, with 15-Tests-old Duanne Olivier the most experienced of the lot.

Cummins hoped that South Africa’s decision to send a second-string squad to New Zealand was just a one-off occurrence.

“I grew up absolutely loving Test cricket,” he said. “I think it does go through phases. I know the South African team aren’t sending their strongest side. I’m hoping it’s a phase.”

Speaking to Fox Cricket, Khawaja said that world cricket needs to wake up to the crisis-in-the-making and address it.

“In my personal opinion, unfortunately the issue is that some of the other countries aren’t getting paid as well for playing international cricket,” he said. “That’s just the raw facts. I know this because I’ve talked to players from other nations, I’ve asked them what their average salary is, what their match contracts are for their countries.

“It would be just great to see all the boards and where their finances are at. Are they struggling, is the money going into the right places, is it going back to the players. We’ve got to figure out a way for them [other countries] to be incentivised to play international and particularly Test cricket. That requires transparency from all cricket boards around the world to try to figure out how to pay the players the best way they can.

“Once you can get on top of that, if you see a massive shortfall for say the Windies – they’re struggling, they’re not bringing in enough money – then world cricket needs to gather round to help. But until you get that clarity and 100% know the money isn’t being misallocated, it is hard to know.”

“I don’t understand why ICC or the top countries who are making a lot of money don’t just have a regulation set fee for Test matches which is a premium, so people are incentivised to play Test cricket. Otherwise they just play T10 or T20”

Steve Waugh

Shan Masood, the Pakistan Test captain, said ahead of the Sydney Test that while he was “not 100% educated” on the subject, he wished for the best XIs taking on the best XIs in the game at all times.

“It’s a pity South Africa aren’t being able to send their full strength squad but hopefully somewhere down the line the schedules can be made in a certain way that we see the strongest XIs playing Test cricket,” Masood said at a press interaction.

Cummins, Khawaja and Masood were speaking a day after Steve Waugh had accused the ICC and various cricket boards of not caring enough about Test cricket.

“Obviously they don’t care,” Waugh told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s pretty obvious what the problem is. The West Indies aren’t sending their full-strength side [to Australia this summer]. They haven’t picked a full-strength Test team for a couple of years now. […] If the ICC or someone doesn’t step in shortly then Test cricket doesn’t become Test cricket because you’re not testing yourself against the best players.

“I understand why players don’t come. They’re not getting paid properly. I don’t understand why ICC or the top countries who are making a lot of money don’t just have a regulation set fee for Test matches which is a premium, so people are incentivised to play Test cricket. Otherwise they just play T10 or T20. The public are the ones who are going to suffer because it’s not the full side playing, so it’s not Test cricket.”

While T20 is seen as the most popular format with the masses, the Australian grounds still have generous numbers coming in to watch Test cricket. The Boxing Day Test between Australia and Pakistan last week had over 100,000 people watching just the first two days. But that’s not always the case elsewhere in the world, and it has Cummins just a tad worried.

“Every summer feels bigger than the last here in Australia, but obviously going overseas, that’s not the case,” Cummins said. “In some regards, I am a little bit worried at times, but at the same time, T20 cricket has never had more supporters and I don’t think there have been more supporters in the world watching cricket.

“As a Test cricket lover, I wish everybody was watching Test cricket, but I’ve never seen cricket stronger than what it is at the moment.”

Will universal match fees for Test matches do the trick to attract more players to play the longer version of the game? Cummins doesn’t hold a strong view on that but is hoping for a “silver bullet” that could potentially help Test cricket regain its popularity.

“Ideally we find a way to make it work where we’ve got 15 or 20 Test-playing nations who are all really strong,” Cummins said. “I understand there are lots of different challenges, so I feel really privileged that in Australia it’s a priority and it’s really well-supported every time we play. I don’t know what the silver bullet is, but it’d be great if there was one.”

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