Eoin Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, believes the time has passed to do something significant to secure the future of Test cricket particularly in those nations where the format is already a tougher sell.
Debates around the relevance of the longest format have become a regular occurrence, mirroring the rise of T20 leagues around the world, with the latest example of changing priorities being the decisions of Adil Rashid and Alex Hales to effectively end their Test careers by signing white-ball only contracts for their counties. Although both were outside the current England Test set-up it was not beyond them, especially in Rashid’s case, to earn a recall but he admitted his heart was no longer in the first-class game.
While the decisions of two players who see their future in the white-ball game don’t have to mean doom for Test cricket, it feels as though the game has come to a tipping point with the global calendar reaching meltdown and a club v country battle starting to emerge. Morgan played the last of his 16 Test six years ago and has long-since put the format out of his mind as he has focused on forging his white-ball career, firstly in T20 and latterly pioneering England’s one-day resurgence, but as an international captain his views will carry weight.
“Test match cricket has had a lot to worry about for quite a while now,” he said. “If something was going to be done about it, it probably should have been done already. There are still, I suppose, different ideas being thrown around but actually giving priority to Test matches is sort of a luxury now for the bigger countries around the world. For other countries T20 franchise cricket takes priority.”
Morgan’s comments follow on from Moeen Ali voicing his concerns about the future of Tests, although the evidence he cited of poor crowds in the recent Ashes didn’t stack up against the reality of the numbers which attended the matches.
There have been attempts to breathe new life into Tests with the advent of floodlit matches, in an effort to entice crowds back at more viewing-friendly hours outside of the working day, and the Test Championship – part of the new Future Tours Programme – which has finally come to fruition in a bid to provide context and will begin in 2019, although there is still plenty of time for cracks to emerge in that plan. Morgan, however, said that ultimately the survival of Test cricket will come down to one thing: money.
“The best ideas probably being bandied around are putting most revenue behind the match appearances or actual prize money towards Test match cricket so there’s no [influence] in what format people choose simply because of the money they might make. It’s all down to how good they are at that particular format.”
On the decision taken by Hales and Rashid, Morgan was unsurprisingly supportive. “I think it’s a really good decision for those individuals. Every individual is different, they see their future and their pathway changing all the time, and it’s okay to be able to change it.
“A lot of people actually are forced into a position to play one or two formats, which I think is wrong because it’s their own career, it’s their own future, they need to take hold of it and make the most of it while they can. And at the moment that’s taking a backward step from red-ball cricket and putting white-ball cricket at the forefront of their career path for now, I think is the right one because they believe it’s the right one.”