International Cricket

Pietersen bats for ‘survival and resurgence’ of Test cricket in annual MAK Pataudi lecture

The former England cricketer is the first overseas player to be invited for the lecture in the honour of late former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

India is still not comfortable with the idea of playing day-night Tests, but former England captain Kevin Pietersen on Tuesday made a strong statement when he said that pink ball matches is the only way forward to save the game’s traditional format.

The first-ever foreign cricketer to address the prestigious MAK Pataudi Lecture, Pietersen couldn’t have possibly chosen a more appropriate platform to make a case for day-night cricket, especially at a time when T20 is threatening to usurp all other formats.

“If we wish cricketers to commit to five-day cricket we have to pay them. So how do we pay them? Simply by throwing the same commercial nouse and innovation 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 doen’t play its biggest fixtures when many of its staunchest, wealthiest fans are at work. Neither should Test cricket,” Pietersen said in his address.

Pietersen stated that marketing Test cricket is the need of the hour for the custodians of the game.

“It will only be by pushing the marketing dial to a maximum that we will see if the Test game has true potential. 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,” he said.

“We need to get them back through the turnstiles. It’s better for the players the sponsors and television. Let’s get the fans back! Let’s throw equal marketing clout behind the Test game before we succumb to the lazy assumption that 20-20 rules.”

Entertainment value

Pietersen said entertainment value of Test cricket needs to be increased.

“I say, let’s create a fair comparison. Let’s not compromise entertainment. Let’s put the Test fans first. 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,” he said.

Pietersen himself has plied his trade across the globe in various T20 leagues but the Englishman remains a staunch supporter of the five-day format.

“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,” he said.

“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,” Pietersen stressed.

Further emphasising on his point, Pietersen said T20 may be ruling the roost but it is Test cricket which eventually showcases the character of a player.

“This may surprise some of you. After all, I am not known as a traditionalist. But in 2005 I maintained that you shouldn’t judge a man by his haircut. And now, thirteen years later, I suggest you should not believe everything you read on Twitter!

“Nor, I should add, am I anything but unstinting in my praise of 20-20 cricket – particularly the wonderful IPL. 20-20 provides the thrill, the noise, the speed and no little genius. It has taken fielding to a new level and has redefined batting,” he said.

“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.”

Another subject that Pietersen touched upon and for which he has been actively campaigning, is conservation of rhinos.

“...a retired cricketer has to broaden his or her horizons. We cannot live in the bubble forever. When I started talking about saving the rhinos there were many in the game who wondered if I was focused on helping the Mid West Rhinos cricket franchise in Zimbabwe!” he quipped.

“I am, of course, dedicated to an incredible beast that should be able to call Africa and India home. In fact, it is hunted relentlessly and remorselessly. Its horns may provide short-term riches but its potential extinction risks us losing something incredibly precious,” he added.

Pietersen said saving rhinos is a metaphor for the future of Test cricket itself.

“And it is no secret that I care fervently about the survival and the resurgence of both,” he said.

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