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Andrew Strauss believes five-day Tests should stay unless case compels | Sport


Andrew Strauss has insisted there must be an overwhelming case for the proposed switch to four-day Test cricket or it should not occur.

The former England captain sits on the International Cricket Council’s cricket committee, which is due to meet at the end of March to continue a debate over whether fixtures in the World Test Championship should be crunched down to four 98-over days across the board from 2023 onwards. The panel, chaired by Anil Kumble, will offer its recommendation to the world governing body’s executive committee, with such a significant change likely to also require sign-off from the full ICC board before being implemented.

Strauss is open-minded about the concept itself given the pressure it could potentially ease in terms of scheduling, costs and player workloads – a view doubtless informed by his three and a half years as England’s director of cricket. But the former opener accepts that the arguments in favour must be compelling – and part of an overall push to promote the longest format – given an emotive topic that this week led Fica, the global players’ union, to warn of “significant” resistance without it.

“If you asked how many people want to reduce Test matches down from five days to four, the answer is probably not that many,” Strauss told the Guardian. “My gut feeling is that we should be looking at the whole picture, how Test cricket can be looking as healthy as possible in future, then work back from that.

“We shouldn’t assume Test cricket is healthy just because it is popular in England. In lots of parts of the world boards are struggling financially and Test cricket is not paying the bills. So we have to look at ways to improve the product for all. That’s the spectacle, the cricket itself, the costs, the schedules, the pitches, the balls, the experience. We need a World Test Championship that is meaningful and compelling. The length of the game is only one part of that bigger discussion.

“This isn’t something that is being proposed with an agenda behind it. No one wants to change for the sake of it. It should be an easy sell or we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Strauss added that his personal preference is for the Ashes to remain a five-day, five-match affair and admitted that shrinking Test matches on the subcontinent may not be straightforward given pitches can take longer to deteriorate.

The 42-year-old is the third member of the ICC cricket committee to speak publicly on the subject, with Mahela Jayawardene, the former Sri Lanka batsman, and Mickey Arthur, Sri Lanka’s new head coach, both firmly in favour of five-day Tests.

Arther, who represents international coaches on the committee, said: “Test cricket challenges you – it challenges you mentally, it challenges you physically and it challenges you technically. We can talk about financial pressures and that type of stuff. [But] I think the fabric of Test cricket shouldn’t be messed with. You want wickets deteriorating on day five, you want thrillers that go all the way, there are a lot of really good exciting draws where one team plays it out. Five-day Test cricket is the way to go without a doubt.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board has already offered cautious support for four-day Tests – Strauss, an ECB consultant, sits on the ICC cricket committee as a former player – while Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are also in favour.

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Much will hinge on the views in India, where Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, has thus far declined to state a position and is due for talks with senior officials from Cricket Australia in Mumbai before next week’s ODI series between the two countries.

Virat Kohli, India’s Test captain, and Sachin Tendulkar, the country’s most revered former player, and Ravi Shastri, the current head coach, have all voiced their opposition, however, the last of these saying on Thursday: “Four-day Test is nonsense.”

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