Test cricket can be exciting. But the crowds ain’t there…

AUSTRALIA has just pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat to register a 36-run win over Pakistan in a fantastic Test match played in Sydney.

But there were few people at the ground to see the game even though it was gripping stuff with more twists and turns than a corkscrew. It’s all because the administrators are greedy and charge atrocious entry fees.

Last Saturday, Victoria and New South Wales played a Twenty20 game in Melbourne as part of the annual inter-state Australian tournament. The entry fee was just $10. A crowd of 28,000 turned up, a respectable number which would fill at least three-quarters of any cricket ground in the country apart from the MCG.

When it comes to Test matches, the Australian cricket authorities make a profit even before the first ball is bowled because of the money from TV rights. Thus, they are really not bothered whether people come to see the game or not. There is no incentive for them to keep prices low so that the stadium gets filled.

The attitude is that people can come and see the game if they want. There is no coverage on TV in the city where the game is played so the public really has no option. Australian radio was pretty good as far as Test commentary went but these days it is ordinary and quite trivial; many people have given up on it as the commentators are self-absorbed, ignorant and, at times, quite redneck in their utterances.

The numbers attending Test matches are falling rapidly. In a big ground like the famous MCG in Melbourne, it really shows as the ground can hold nearly 100,000. When a quarter of the ground, mostly the cheapest seats and the members seats, are the only ones occupied, then you know that the public have been driven away successfully.

Another reason why people stay away from Tests is because of the over-zealous security people. In many cases, the only thing that one has to be wary of is the security people themselves who are officious to the nth degree. The enjoyment of being at the cricket has gone.

The administrators of the game are not overly concerned. They continue to try and deny that there is a problem by employing spin of which even Shane Warne would be proud. They pretend that there is no problem and then the need to talk about it automatically goes away.

In many ways, the fact that Australia won today will serve the team badly as several problems will remain unaddressed. A spinner who does not deserve to be in the team took five wickets – not a single one by bowling well but all due to false strokes by batsmen. There will be no questions raised about him.

There are a couple of players in the team whose position needs to be scrutinised but that will not happen either. There is a captain who should not be playing due to an injury – the man is 35 and his performance and decisions need some questioning. That will not happen.

Mediocre performances by mediocre players also serve to drive the public away. Test cricket is supposed to be the pinnacle of the game but this is more like a trough. And the administrators? Oh, they are too busy laughing all the way to the bank.

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