Test match cricket has been in decline for years and this is a move in the right direction. It will add relevance and meaning to every game and series.
One of the things that makes T20 leagues so popular is they are easy to understand. You can see which teams are top of the league, those that are bottom. In Test cricket none of us really knows how the rankings work.
Over a two-year cycle you would expect England to have a great chance of reaching the final but the teams that finish in the top two will be those that can win away. That is the challenge.
Administrators know Test cricket is on the decline. Fundamentally there are a lot of people against change in cricket but they have to understand cricket is a business. Test cricket costs a huge amount of money to put on. Broadcasters have to be kept interested in the format. If they lose interest, it is dead. Test cricket needs a story or narrative and it doesn’t happen at the moment apart from the odd big series.
This will give it that narrative and add value for the broadcasters. Traditionalists will say Test cricket should not be about money. But if we are going to grow the game with women’s cricket, grassroots and schools then it takes serious levels of funding and that only comes through broadcast deals.
I like the idea of trialling four-day cricket and I have no doubt in the future the league will be based on four days.
The average Test match lasts for 331 overs. Yes we still have great fifth days. We have had drama on the last day in recent years, particularly at Headingley this summer when West Indies beat England, but the majority of matches finish inside four days.
Teams will have to play four-day cricket a bit differently. They might have to declare and set a game up if it rains. You do that in four-day first class cricket already. I can understand those that say Test cricket is the greatest format because it is the only level of the game when you play over five days.
It requires different skills but the bigger picture is scheduling and the amount of money lost on the fifth day when grounds are empty. The powers that be keep telling me that they lose money on the last day. Make that public then people might understand a little bit more.
Four-day Tests will be easier to schedule alongside T20 leagues. The majority of those leagues are hugely successful and England will have their own new one in 2020. It will be given huge exposure on terrestrial television and it would make the summer feel less cramped if Tests were played over four days.
Next year scheduling is all over the place. We have a Saturday start against India at Trent Bridge. If we switch to four days with every Test starting on a Thursday it would enable grounds to cash in on corporate sales on the first two days and then have family days over the weekend. Test cricket is still the greatest format but we have to do everything we can to make sure it is relevant in 50 years time. This is a step in the right direction.