A lot has been said over the decisions a few players have taken to stop playing Test cricket. T20 cricket is taking a firm hold of the public’s cricketing interest. The longest formats are unable to compete with the financial rewards the 20-over game offers. It is worrying times for the future of Test cricket. Especially as there are no current ideas on how to recapture the public’s imagination again.
Is there more to the exodus of players to T20 cricket than meets the eye? How much is Test cricket worse off without the players that have decided to retire from it? Granted there are more than a few concerns with the future of Test cricket, but is it losing its best players?
Alex Hales and Adil Rashid are the latest English players to retire from Tests. In the case of Alex Hales, he wasn’t being selected for the Three Lions at the time of his announcement. Hales played 11 Tests for England, scoring 573 runs and averaging 27.28. With a record like that, it’s easy to see why the English selectors chose to go down another path. Hales wasn’t contributing enough in the Test arena.
The talent of the Middlesex born opener is there for all to see. A lack of patience and many poorly timed shots led to his failures in the longest format. As for Adil Rashid, the leg-spinner too had his struggles in the Test arena. Playing 10 Tests, Rashid averaged 42.78 with the ball in hand. More significantly was that Rashid was going at almost 4 to the over. Any leg-spinner leaking runs will always put his team under the pump. Rashid didn’t have the control or zip needed to tie batsman down.
At best Hales and Rashid were average Test players; losing them won’t have catastrophic consequences for the national Test setup. The same couldn’t be said if a player like Ben Stokes decided to leave the format behind. Thankfully for fans and administrators of English cricket, Stokes is committed to playing all three formats.
Speaking after he was named the man of the match against New Zealand in the second ODI, Stokes reaffirmed his commitment to the national side. Stokes admitted feeling a little bit emotional after his return. What a comeback it has been, with the fiery all-rounder making an immediate impact. England are now on course again to win the series and are backed at 4/7 in the latest cricket odds to do so. England’s revival in that series is down to Stokes. The Durham cricketer is without a doubt England’s’ box office player. Despite Stokes’ success in the shorter formats, it hasn’t affected his longing to play Test cricket.
As long as the ECB are able to pick their best players for Test cricket there shouldn’t be any undue concern. Whilst it is unfortunate that both Hales and Rashid see their futures elsewhere, it isn’t the end of the world.
The desire within the majority of players to play Test cricket is still great. It is still seen as the ultimate format. Going forward, the ECB will have to put measures in place to ensure it stays that way.