Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen delivered the MAK Pataudi Memorial Lecture in Bengaluru on Tuesday, urging the cricketing fraternity to focus on the revival of Test cricket. Here are excerpts from his speech.
Why Test cricket remains the pinnacle
“In my humble opinion a hard fought five-day Test match remains the greatest all-round challenge in modern day sport.
“A challenge as mentally demanding as it is physical. A challenge demanding the very highest levels of concentration of technique, of determination, of stamina, all, for the batsman at least, with no second chances.
“Because, having played every form of cricket in every corner of the cricketing globe, I remain 100% convinced that the five-day Test remains the supreme form of the game.
“This may surprise some of you. After all, I am not known as a traditionalist… Nor, I should add, am I anything but unstinting in my praise of T20 cricket – particularly the wonderful IPL. Twenty20 provides the thrill, the noise, the speed and no little genius. It has taken fielding to a new level and has redefined batting.
“But it offers the cricketing buzz without the full sting. Wickets are less precious. Risks are taken without the same downside. There is less character and technique required. Few players have ever been met with the wrath of an entire population simply for getting out to an injudicious shot early in a T20 innings…”
“Trust me, there is no feeling like the exhaustion, the excitement, the sense of wonder at waking up on the final day of a Test match knowing that any result is possible. The aching thighs. The mental fatigue. The fear. And the possibility that this will be the day.”
How you keep Test cricket healthy
“I’m afraid that the answer to that isn’t in the hands of cricketers at all. It’s in a word that makes many shudder: commerce.
“We may dream that cricketers will choose to play five-day cricket because of its history and tradition. Because it develops character. And because we seek to emulate the feats of [Don] Bradman, [Len] Hutton and [Sunil] Gavaskar.
“Trust me, there is no feeling like the exhaustion, the excitement, the sense of wonder at waking up on the final day of a Test match knowing that any result is possible”
“But that would be no different to asking a Bollywood star to give up the screen for work in the theatre. It may be a more classical form of acting but it offers a fraction of the rewards.
“If we wish cricketers to commit to five-day cricket we have to pay them. And as an ex-cricketer, I can now say this without being accused of self-interest…
“So how do we pay them? Simply by throwing the same commercial nous and innovation [as in T20] at the Test game. Five days of action. They provide so many opportunities. Day-night games have demonstrated the enormous leaps that are possible. The IPL doesn’t play its biggest fixtures when many of its staunchest, wealthiest fans are at work. Neither should Test cricket…
“Let’s make every game count. Push the profile of the World Test Championship. Develop marketing opportunities. Offer cheaper seats in the ground to provide a better spectacle for TV viewers.
“Is there a game anywhere quite like Test cricket in which so many people are passionate despite rarely attending a game in person? We need to get them back through the turnstiles. It’s better for the players, the sponsors, and television…
“Let’s throw equal marketing clout behind the Test game before we succumb to the lazy assumption that T20 rules.”
How to raise Test cricket’s entertainment levels
“Let’s not compromise on entertainment… Let’s make Test cricket a spectacle. Garnish it with colour and fireworks. Fill the grounds. Play in the evenings. Give the umpires microphones to broadcast to the spectators. Allow sledging – as long as it remains the right side of the line. Communicate better with the fans.
“When the greatest players can attract the greatest income by playing the greatest form of the game, then we will see nothing less than a renaissance in Test cricket”
“Give the players a voice during play. Entertainment isn’t just about hitting the ball hard or bowling bouncers. It’s about creating an experience.”
How to make Test cricket the best players’ priority
“As for the administrators wondering what the players really think. How do you ensure that Rashid Kahn and his fellow stars in this room commit to Test cricket? How do you push them towards a career where they truly care about the five-day game?
“It’s remarkably simple. Ensure that it becomes their priority. They are professionals. They are brands in their own right…
“So ensure that they are paid as well over five days as they are over five hours of T20 cricket. You can’t blame a player for seeking financial security through his or her sporting talent. The days of amateurism are gone.
“Let’s not kid ourselves that players will choose a classical art form over something requiring less effort that attracts greater rewards. When the greatest players can attract the greatest income by playing the greatest form of the game, then we will see nothing less than a renaissance in Test cricket.”
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.