London: Former Pakistan batsman Ramiz Raja has urged the International Cricket Council to set aside a two-month window solely for Test matches in a bid to preserve the longest form of the game.
While crowds for Tests in countries such as England remain strong, Raja, a member of the influential MCC world cricket committee, fears interest in Asia is “dwindling” thanks partly to the rise of lucrative domestic Twenty20 competitions such as the Indian Premier League.
“I feel that the ICC has a decent plan in the shape of the World Test Championship,” said Raja after a committee meeting at Lord´s on Tuesday.
“There should be a window for that and everything else should stop for a period of two months so the best players are available to play Test cricket.”
He added: “It´s got to get better. In Asia, for example, because of poor Test match scheduling, the interest is dwindling.
“When you go back home you are never sure if you are going to have a one-Test series, a two-Test series or whether you are going to have a Test series at all.”
– ´Respect´ –
Raja said national governing bodies such as the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Pakistan Cricket Board had to play their part as well.
“You have to acknowledge and respect the status of Test match cricket and it has to come from the cricket boards, in Asia specifically.
“For example, MS Dhoni retired from Test cricket yet got the A-grade contract from the BCCI, Shahid Afridi retired from Test cricket yet got the A-grade contract from PCB.
“It is under a lot of stress in Asia but if we have a properly planned Test match championship, that´s the way out of this, otherwise we will be struggling to put aside as much money as is available for the T20 leagues,” Raja insisted.
Meanwhile the committee, whose members also include such illustrious names as Ricky Ponting, Brendon McCullum, Sourav Ganguly and Kumar Sangakkara, has come down against reducing Tests from five days to four days after it was suggested a shorter game might be more fan-friendly.
“Last time we met, the committee was split, with some believing we should trial four-day Test matches,” said outgoing chairman Mike Brearley, the former England captain.
“This time, most of us thought, looking at the fact that over half the matches that got results last year got results in the fifth day, that we didn´t want Test cricket to become more boring. So from a cricket point of view, we believe they should stay five days.”
The committee also urged the ICC to move quickly to try to get cricket included for the 2024 Olympics, which will be staged in either Los Angeles or Paris.
“It is crucial to have cricket in the Olympics because the game will be introduced to many new parts of the world,” said Raja.
“But for that to happen we have to present a unified front from cricket that we want to be included in the Games.
“Los Angeles would be perfect — I played cricket there and you´d get massive crowds.”
Brearley added it also be a huge boost to cricket in China as the Chinese government would inject huge funds if they had an Olympic team.