Cricket West Indies is mulling to scrap one Test from the three-match series against Sri Lanka in favour of two One-Day Internationals. The news is the second big jolt for the conventional format of the gentleman’s game within a fortnight after Cricket Australia had backed out from hosting Bangladesh in a Test series later this year.
Cricket West Indies and Cricket Australia have cited a common cause – “commercial viability” – for their decisions. If not addressed in an earnest manner, this may well become the beginning of the end for Test match cricket!
While confirming the Cricket West Indies move, Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Ashley de Silva had put on record the “limited-over games are more attractive to broadcasters and are less expensive to host”. This very fact holds the threat to the survival of Test cricket, which in future will heavily rely on India to sustain.
The shorter format of the game is becoming increasingly lucrative to all stakeholders – players, sponsors, spectators, organisers and cricket administrators. There is lesser effort and bigger gains. Revenues – media rights fee, gate collections, in-stadia sales and sponsorships – decline sharply for a Test match, while the organising costs shoot up five fold in comparison to a limited overs game. On account of the broadcast production, satellite costs, event and venue management, players’ and officials’ fee and all allied expenses.
The broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers treat a T20, an ODI or a Test match as one game for commercial valuations, which means a T20, an ODI or a Test match will invoke same commercial value for media rights or sponsorship and ad sales. The gate money for a Test match over the five days fall way short of a day’s collection for a limited overs game. The Ashes and Tests in England may still be an exception for gate collections.
“Only playing the Ashes and India can be commercially viable for Australia or England. Shorter version of the game has increased interest both on air and on ground. T-20 and 50-over, one-day format of the game will grow the economy of the cricket boards, but it is at the cost of Test cricket,” says Arshad Nizam Shawl, director and co-founder of Alliance Advertising and Marketing, India’s leading media buyer in sports.
“Test cricket in India and England is still healthy and sustainable. In India, it is the revenue factor. The sponsorship interest in India still makes Tests commercially viable. In England, it is traditional spectator interest for the longer version of the game. Test matches are sold out. There are good gate money for County games as well.
“Playing with India still remains commercially viable and a priority for any Test-playing nation. For example, if the West Indies does not host the Indian team for the next three years, they will have no money to host any other cricket board,” adds Arshad Nizam Shawl.
A declining trend in the broadcaster interest is further pushing the smaller cricket boards away from Test cricket. “Sri Lankan broadcasters have no interest in their own home Test series. The media rights values in New Zealand Cricket are on a decline. Test cricket in Australia and England has good demand only for the Ashes and the India series. Same is the case with South Africa,” says Ashish Chadha, Chief Executive Sporty Solutionz and a media rights syndication veteran.
“Bangladesh is an exception to show an increase for cricket consumption. Even there the scale is gradually tilting towards the shorter version,” adds Chadha. “India seems an exception when looking at the ₹6,138 crore commitment from Star India. But even in the BCCI FTP, the number of Tests is on a decline.”
The efforts like the day-night, pink-ball Tests might not suffice alone unless some drastic changes are made to make the longer version of the game fast and result-oriented. Until that happens the gentleman’s game in white flannels is heading to be in the category of a dying art.