Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley insists that a captivating Ashes can play a key role in preserving Test cricket around the world.
This year’s series is being played out in a shadow of pessimism surrounding the future of the five-day game, with Steven Smith admitting earlier this month that he has concerns about Test cricket’s place in the sport.
The rise of T20 leagues and an increase in IPL owners buying teams in various countries is shaping up to be the biggest concern with players threatening to sign long-term annual deals.
Fears were raised last month, when Rajasthan Royals owner Manoj Badale suggested that international cricket could fit into small windows around the lucrative T20 leagues.
While Australia, England and India appear to be safe, there are concerns for other nations as players stand to earn much more money in T20 cricket than representing their countries.
South Africa will play four Tests in the next 16 months, while the vast majority of nations will play less five-day cricket between 2023 and 2027 than in the four years to 2017.
England have made no secret of the fact that they want their Bazball style of play to help save Test cricket and make it more attractive to all nations.
“We hope it’s a stimulus to encourage players and administrators to make it the final format of the game,” Hockley told AAP. “It’s where legends are made, it’s where reputations and careers are forged.
“In commercial terms, we’ve seen record audiences for this first Ashes Test. Both in Australia and England. We’ve seen huge audiences around the world. That’s driven by the compelling narrative.”
Last week’s first test in Edgbaston broke several broadcast records, with an average reach of 1.32 million people per day tuning in to Nine’s coverage in Australia, and 2.1 million watching the final day in England on Sky.
“What we’re seeing in recent weeks in the UK is the importance and enduring appeal of Test cricket,” Hockley said. “People will be talking about the test match at Edgbaston for many, many years.
“That’s a great announcement for Test cricket in all countries, because the reality is that T20 has fostered different competitive pressures. Both from the cricket side and from the business side.”
Hockley is confident that international cricket can avoid the threat of becoming a secondary fixture to franchise leagues, and is adamant that the sport is acting to ensure that Tests remain the pinnacle.
Included in that is the belief that the sport moves in waves, with Cricket Australia firmly convinced that Pakistan is a nation on the rise, with international cricket back at home and healthy crowds abroad.
“We are very aware of the pressures and demands,” Hockley said. “The World Test Championship is a huge step forward, it gives context to all the series and also ensures that there is a well-established framework to ensure we play against a variety of teams.
“We need to make sure that we are taking great care of international cricket. We have just seen with our latest round of broadcast and sponsorship deals, that the World Cups have never been more popular.”
“Whether it’s other members’ boards or the players themselves, what’s consistent is the love and care of wanting to make Test cricket flourish.”