Hope For The Best In Tests

From the editor: If there cannot be more Test cricket played there can be better Test cricket played, says John Stern in his editorial for April’s TWC

The start of England’s Test series in Bangladesh coincided, as if by mischievous design, with the kick-off of the third season of the Indian Premier League.

The first day of the Test contained all the intensity of an early county v university match while the IPL kicked off with ageing pop stars, a full house at Hyderabad and Adam Gilchrist.

It is hard not to concur with the prediction of MCC’s chief executive Keith Bradshaw that clubs, not countries, hold the power if not the glory.

It is surely only the substantial value of an ECB central contract that enabled England to send their strongest available (the captain and James Anderson being unavailable) side to Bangladesh given the losing battle many nations are fighting with the IPL and the Twenty20 format. Bradshaw’s concern is that players will be ‘bred’ purely for Twenty20. In the magazine Brendon McCullum worries that fast bowlers will choose the shortest format, with its maximum of four-over spells, over the hard slog of five-day Tests.

Test cricket is desperate for greater context for its contests and that means greater time and commitment from the nations that play it. Yet the calendar is bloated already. I cannot see how there can be more Test cricket played but there can be better Test cricket played – in other words, the premier form of the game played by the best teams, at full strength and properly prepared.

And what of the IPL? To many of you it may well be a glittering irrelevance. There is plenty to enjoy and admire, not least the crowds and the big-event atmosphere, but it is excruciatingly tacky. I counted six different sponsors’ logos on Virender Sehwag’s clothing and kit. And that discounts the kit manufacturer or his own personal endorsement on the back of his bat. Even the cheerleaders promote sponsors’ liveries rather than those of the teams they purport to represent.

Contrast this with America’s National Football League, an organisation that Lalit Modi would revere for its commercial success but where shirt sponsorship and perimeter advertising are not permitted.

As for the cricket, the IPL seems still to be relying on mostly ageing or past-it international players for its stellar quality. This does not bode well for its sustainability or its marketability to non-Indians.

But this is the centre of the cricket world right now and it is also the only live cricket UK viewers are going to see on free-to-air television before 2014 at the earliest.

We know you love our summer fixtures wallchart, which comes free with this issue. We hope we’ve found all the needles in the various haystacks as each year it becomes more challenging to compile. The structure of the county game seems to undergo an annual makeover, making the season ever more complicated to follow and almost unintelligible for the uninitiated.

But that, of course, is why our wallchart is such a necessary accompaniment to the summer.

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