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Test cricket needs more than the Ashes to survive



Last Updated on 10 months by Charbel Coorey

Cricket Opinion: Test cricket needs more than the Ashes to survive | Why the Ashes is not enough to protect Test cricket

The 2023 Ashes, the best of its kind since the memorable 2005 edition, had millions talking about Test cricket. If you weren’t glued to every ball, you were missing out. Australia fired the first two shots, before England made a roaring fightback to level a gripping series.

The consensus among some is such a duel gives Test cricket a shot in the arm; a lifeline to “save” the format. After all, any exposure that Test cricket can get it is just what it needs, right?

Not quite. The debate around Test cricket’s future goes deeper than a classic battle between two of the “big three”. There is so much more involved, with Test cricket’s landscape looking particularly bleak.

The Test cricket landscape looks worrying

Test cricket looks quite healthy in England, India and Australia. However what about the rest? What does Test cricket mean to them, and more importantly, is there a desire to develop young talent with red-ball cricket in mind given there is such an unequal distribution of funds? Where do these nations see Test cricket in the next five to ten years given the format isn’t as profitable?

At the same time as England and Australia went head-to-head for the coveted urn, West Indies and India took part in a two-match Test series that was so low-key you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know it was on.

Predictably, India dominated, highlighting the landscape that theatens Test cricket’s future. Currently, Test cricket is profitable for the big three, with other nations needing to turn elsewhere for a boost in their finances.

The likes of Cricket South Africa (CSA), who less than a decade ago fielded one of the most decorated Test teams of the modern era, are criticised by some for not scheduling in more Tests. In fact, they are set to play only two-match series during the entire World Test Championship (WTC) 2025-27 cycle.

However, can you blame them? A board’s financial survival is their perogative. There are wages to pay and staff need to put food on the table. If T20 cricket helps achieve those goals, who are we to criticise boards who make the necessary moves to ensure their survival?

Cricket Opinion: Test cricket needs more than the Ashes to survive | Why the Ashes is not enough to protect Test cricket
SA20 turned a profit in its inaugural season.

T20 leagues vs Test cricket

T20 is the money-maker. Test cricket is expensive to host and does not attract big crowds all around the world given work and other commitments. Couple this with an unequal distribution of funds, and you get the idea.

Also, the shorter format caters to the need for instant gratification that has taken the world by storm over the past two decades.

This may not sound nice to the traditionalists (of which I am one), but these are the cold, hard facts.

CSA, cash-striken over the years, has hedged its financial future on SA20, which turned a profit in its inaugural season in 2023. Ahead of its second season, the Proteas have been working behind the scenes to reschedule their two-match Test series against New Zealand in February 2024, which clashes with the business end of the SA20 season. The Black Caps have not agreed, which puts the Proteas in a pickle.

According to reports, CSA will likely prioritise SA20, as they did when they forfeited a three-match ODI series in Australia that could have put their spot in this year’s World Cup in jeopardy. CEO Pholetski Moseki is on record to say “the SA20 is too important”, which is totally understandable given the investors, namely IPL franchise owners, want a return. To maximise that return, the best South African players need to be available.

The hope, especially for the purists, is that South Africa invest their SA20 revenue into their first-class system, which has undergone a major revamp itself in recent times.

Of course, South Africa aren’t the only ones in a position where white-ball cricket is key for survival. Former Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Dave Cameron previously said that Test cricket in the Caribbean does not turn a profit unless it’s against the big three.

“I dare say the West Indies need to be invited to these geographies to play because a Test match in the West Indies today is a dead-rubber unless it’s against India, England or Australia where we get revenues from television,” Cameron said.

“That is not anybody’s doing or my doing, its Generation Z. They don’t want to take five days to consume the game, it’s not Dave Cameron or the ICC, it is what the demand has been and that’s the reason why T20 has flourished,” he added.

So, while Australian coach Andrew McDonald’s call for no more two-match series sounds good, how feasible is it for nations around the world where revenue is an issue?

ALSO READ: More than two-thirds of fans believe T20 franchises will soon hold power of boards in CricBlog survey

The issue of red-ball skill

With a different T20 league nearly every month, not only can players earn lucrative amounts, but there are minimal opportunities to hone their red-ball skills.

West Indies’ Alzarri Joseph is an example. Joseph, tall, rangy and quick, has previously spoken of his love for Test cricket, which should mean good news for the Windies who are longing for a return to their glory days. However, as of August 2023, Joseph has bowled a tick over 10,000 deliveries in First Class cricket, with white-ball catching up very quickly already at 9,234.

So, along with the revenue issue, skill is another. If players aren’t spending time on their techniques for the red-ball game, the product suffers further.

Sri Lanka are an example. In good news, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) earned record net profits in 2022, with international cricket a key driver. However, the Lions seem to float in and out of the conversation in Test cricket, with good performances often mixed in with the ugly.

Their latest effort was a shambolic 2-0 home series loss to Pakistan, where they lost the second Test by an innings and 222 runs. Since the start of 2022, they have won just five of 13 Tests, with two coming against Ireland who, before 2023, hadn’t played a Test since 2019.

Now, it’s not as if the Sri Lankan players have the opportunity to review their performances. Instead, attention quickly turned to the Lankan Premier League (LPL), with the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) to come for some, soon followed by the ODI World Cup.

Cricket Opinion: Test cricket needs more than the Ashes to survive | Why the Ashes is not enough to protect Test cricket
Pakistan were far too strong for Sri Lanka in their 2023 tour.

What’s the solution?

It’s time for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to stand up. The ICC can be a toothless tiger, given action needed to be taken many years before now. Making an effort to keep Test cricket alive should be one of the top agenda items at the ICC given its tradition, and that strong techniques are important for young players who even have aspirations of starring in white-ball cricket.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said the ICC needs to put a global fund in place to help make Test cricket more attractive financially for players.

“Their payment system in the Caribbean compared to some of the franchise leagues, it doesn’t match up,” Ponting said. “And Sri Lanka will be the same and Bangladesh will be the same.”

“There is a role to play for the ICC here – make the payments a bit more even across international Test cricket to attract players from these different countries who want to play for their country.”

Whether it’s global funds, international windows, limits on T20 league matches or other solution(s), it’s time the ICC acts as the catalyst for change rather than meander along and allow the boards to do as they please.

If things stay the way they are, it is entirely possible that Test cricket will be played its own little bubble with no more than five or six teams participating. Maybe even less. If we get to that stage, how long will it be before fans get bored of the same few teams playing each other all the time?

Time will tell.

Charbel Coorey
Charbel Coorey
Charbel is the owner & founder of, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has also been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at

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