Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley insists a captivating Ashes can play a key role in preserving Test cricket worldwide.
This year’s series is being played in a shadow of doom and gloom around the five-day game’s future, with Steven Smith admitting earlier this month he has concerns about Test cricket’s place in the sport.
The rise of T20 leagues, and an increase in IPL owners buying out teams across multiple countries, looms as the biggest concern with the threat of players signing long-term, annual deals.
Fears were heightened last month, when Rajasthan Royals owner Manoj Badale suggested international cricket could be fitted into small windows around lucrative T20 leagues.
While Australia, England and India appear safe, there are concerns for other nations given players can make significantly more money in T20 cricket than from 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 they did in the four years to 2017.
England have made no secret of the fact they want their Bazball style of play to help save Test cricket and make it more attractive for all nations.
“We hope that will be a stimulus to encourage players and administrators that it is the ultimate format of the game,” Hockley told AAP. “It is where legends are made, it is where reputations and careers are forged.
“In commercial terms, we have seen record audiences for this first Ashes Test. Both in Australia and England. We have seen big audiences around the world. That is driven by the compelling narrative.”
Last week’s first Test at Edgbaston broke several broadcasting records, with an average reach of 1.32 million people per day tuning in to Nine’s coverage in Australia, and 2.1m watching the final day in England on Sky.
“What we’re seeing through recent weeks in the UK is the importance and enduring appeal of Test cricket,” Hockley said. “People will talk about the Test match at Edgbaston for many, many years.
“That is a great advert for Test cricket across all countries, because the reality is that T20 has encouraged different competing pressures. Both from a cricket side and a commercial side.”
Hockley is confident international cricket can ward off the threat of becoming secondary to franchise leagues, adamant the sport is acting to ensure Tests remain as the pinnacle.
Included in that is a belief that sport moves in waves, with Cricket Australia firmly of the belief Pakistan are one nation on the rise, with international cricket back in the country and healthy crowds overseas.
“We are acutely aware of the pressures and demands,” Hockley said. “The World Test Championship is a massive step forward, providing context to all the series and also making sure there is a well-established framework to ensure we play a range of teams.
“We need to make sure we are taking great care of international cricket. “We have just seen with our latest round of broadcast and sponsorship deals, that World Cups have never been more popular.
“Whether it is other member boards or the players themselves, what is consistent is the love and care to want to make Test cricket flourish.”