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Sat Apr 19 06:22:20 SAST 2014

Level the field and Test bucks will follow

Firdose Moonda | 27 February, 2013 00:07
Firdose Moonda
Image by: The Times

Stadium numbers indicate otherwise, but South Africans want more Test cricket. The first thought after the Proteas completed their summer sweep at Centurion was why there is a seven-month wait before they will be in action again.

The answer lies in Sri Lanka. They were due to host Graeme Smith's men for three Tests in July but opted out. At face value, it may seem they are running scared of a team that has such an ability to adapt that some would back them to win against aliens on the moon. Go deeper and you will find no such compliment.

Sri Lanka would rather have a shorter tour because they want a window to play their postponed 20-over premier league.

Culling the Tests to achieve that instead of the limited-overs matches made commercial sense so that is what they proposed.

Cricket South Africa agreed because, according to an official, they always try to accommodate other countries. Very kind.

The ICC did not have to get involved because it was a bilateral issue and that is really the problem.

Member countries, who are themselves influenced by factors such as voting at the ICC, can run their own schedules with the Future Tours Programme acting only as a guideline.

Even that can be changed. As an example, look no further than our neighbours, Zimbabwe.

They did not play a Test or ODI for a year because both Bangladesh and Pakistan decided to do other things in the time they were supposed to visit them.

Lamenting the mushrooming of Twenty20 leagues has been done. As has moaning about the power of money in random one-day series.

What we must now question is why the 10 Test-playing nations themselves cannot see the value in deciding on a fixed schedule in which every one of them features in the same number of Tests a year.

It will mean fewer limited-overs matches, but does that have to mean less money?

If, collectively, the number of ODIs is reduced and the meaning of those matches is greater, they will become more valuable, and simple economics tells us profits are higher when demand outstrips supply.

With Test cricket on a level playing field, it will become more marketable. It was at its peak about a year ago when four sides were in the running for No1, but even now the level of competition is high enough for Test cricket to attract bigger bucks.

Consider that South Africa have to win on the sub-continent before they can be called truly great and that their upcoming series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates is already a gold mine for advertisers.

Turning tracks are Smith's team's final frontier, but we will have to wait until October to see if they can dance on them.

The winter will include the Indian Premier League, Champions Trophy and the non-Test matches in Sri Lanka.

If you miss men in white too much, you could always watch the Ashes and wonder why South Africa does not play any five-Test series.

We can debate that another day.

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Sat Apr 19 06:22:20 SAST 2014 ::