Colin Graves, the incoming ECB chairman, is a self-proclaimed “cricket nut.” Amid lagging attendance and claims that the game’s longer formats bore modern audiences, Graves has made it his mission to “reclaim cricket as the national summer sport.” Graves wants to see the game thrive. He simply loves cricket, you see.
That’s why it’s a bit baffling that he wants less of it.
More specifically, Graves hopes to see Test matches shrink from five days to four, with 105 overs played a day. Rather than addressing the myriad of other problems facing the game—such as a complete lack of cricket on free-to-air TV in the UK—Graves seems to believe that the best way to save the sport is to assure that there is 20 percent less of it.
Graves’ reasoning is the same soulless corporatist logic heard time and again—it’s merely a cost saving measure. Graves claims that since attendance is sparse on the fifth day of a Test match, lopping it off altogether would save both the broadcasters and the host ground a substantial sum. Never mind that fact that this change may very well result in attendance becoming sparse on the fourth the match, thus leaving Graves with the same problem he hoped to prevent. To fix this, maybe Graves should just propose three-day Test matches instead. You know what? Let’s just play an ODI. Actually, forget it—a T20 will do just fine. We all know you want more of those, Colin.
But Graves isn’t content to simply tear apart cricket at it’s purest for the sake of TV revenue. Being the good capitalist that he is, Graves has suggested that the first two days of the new four-day format be reserved as “corporate days.” Yes, as lovers of cricket have been saying for decades, won’t someone please think of the corporations?
Graves is right in the sense that something must be done to help cricket convalesce from its ailments. It’s undeniable that cricket participation rates are down and that county attendance is suffering. But is the answer really more short-form cricket? For Australians at least, who’s Test match viewership still outpaces the TV numbers for the T20 Big Bash League by a wide margin, the answer is no. The same may hold true for the English game.
Some have pointed out it may very well be a good thing that the ECB have a chairman in Graves who is willing to think creatively, even if this specific idea is poor—and this is true. Changes must be made—but it’s hard to see how shortening Tests would benefit anyone other than television executives and cricketing powerbrokers.
Yet, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that man who made his millions from a discount convince chain called Costcutter wants to slash away at the highest level of the game.