By Jack Vavasour
Test cricket, the most prestigious form of the game. Every player would kill for an opportunity to don a white shirt and represent his country. Numerous players have switched allegiance in order to play Test cricket, Eoin Morgan being one of the most famous examples.
Currently there are 12 nations who possess Test status. The most recent of these sides to be awarded said status were Ireland and Afghanistan in 2018. Achieving the status is one thing, now the two nations face the struggle of actually fulfilling their potential within the Test arena. This has proven to be notoriously difficult for new nations. The reasoning behind this is that teams who are already adapted and engrained within the arena are less likely to play minnows. Furthermore, you have neither the structure nor funding to compete. Both Afghanistan and Ireland have played only 2 Tests since they were awarded their new status, one of which was against each other.
Prior to Ireland and Afghanistan, the most recent teams initiated into this exclusive club were Zimbabwe in 1992 and Bangladesh in 2000. The trajectory of these two sides has been almost polar opposites. Zimbabwe have never really adapted or evolved in their position. Having played no Tests in 2019 and only two in the last 12 months. Conversely, Bangladesh have competed eight Tests in the same period, only two of these against Zimbabwe. The remainder of these matches have been against more respected sides.
The International calendar only allows for a certain amount of matches per season, and the schedule is already stretched. This often results in players getting minimal rest, especially with the number of franchise competitions the best players now participate in. The introduction of more sides who are able to play Test matches only complicates this. In reality, these teams will struggle to organise series and find nations to play them. Fans would rather watch an intense and thrilling Ashes Series, rather than viewing a weakened England side cruise to victory against Ireland. This is another reason why there has been a plethora of Ashes series in recent years, to get fans to the stadiums and sell tickets.
Test matches aren’t as profitable as they used to be, viewing images from Ireland vs Afghanistan, their match was also empty. Unfortunately, the shorter forms of the games are drawing the crowds and playing minnow nations over 5 days (or even 4 as England are doing so against Ireland this summer) will not attract an audience. The final 2 days of a Test often don’t sell out due to the risk of no play occurring, this will only be heightened in the case of Ireland and Afghanistan.
The unfair aspect to this is that Zimbabwe should be have been stripped of their status and subsequently re-distributed to one of the new sides. Presumably this would have been Afghanistan who are, arguably, the superior cricketing nation.
Only time will tell how these nations will fair and Test cricket is an unforgiving arena.