Former England cricket superstar and former IPL star Kevin Pietersen is sad that the commercial interest in the shorter formats of the game is taking the spotlight away from Test cricket. India's five-Test series against England got underway at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Wednesday. Virat Kohli's team lost the 2018 series in England 4-1. Pietersen fears the high-profile Test series may not get its share of spotlight. (FIRST TEST LIVE SCORES)
"I’m a purist. One of the greatest achievements of my career was reaching 100 Test match caps. The literal blood, sweat and tears that go into a Test career are what makes the longest format the best. It now feels like interest in the format, ahead of a series between two giants of the game, is dwindling and it’s really worrying," said Pietersen.
Even in a country where cricket was born and cherished as a long-form game is being take over, the over commercialisation of the game is quite evident. England have improvised with 'The Hundred' and KP is worried that Test cricket may finally get relegated to the backburner.
"I understand the commercial structure around the shorter forms of the game. I am very happy to be working on The Hundred and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. But the satisfaction of having played 100 Tests far outweighs anything I ever achieved in the shorter formats. From that standpoint, I’m incredibly worried about the state of Test match cricket," said Pietersen.
Pietersen has proposed a model where commerce and four-day cricket will work together and aim towards increasing quality and popularity of the game in England.
"I proposed on social media this week that four-day cricket in England needs to be franchised. The best of the best would play against each other every single week, with eight to 10 matches played per team every season," said KP.
"The rest, who shouldn’t be playing first-class cricket, can go and play minor counties and improve their game. If they are desperate enough, work hard enough and are talented enough, they will break into the first-class structure.
"I won’t settle for mediocrity. I never did as a player and I won’t now. There are too many first-class cricketers in this country – far too many.
"We should be able to produce opening batsmen who come into international cricket and clean up, but we don’t. Why? Because the standard of county cricket is rubbish. Plain and simple. "
Pietersen says England don't have the players who can attract fans to Test cricket. He says England don’t have a top three that could possibly compare to Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott. They don’t have a quality spinner, too.
"When the best of the best play against each other, the strength and depth improves. It would also incentivise the best players to reconnect with English domestic cricket. As an overseas player, why would you drive up and down the country on small money playing four-day cricket in the cold when you can earn hundreds of thousands in a quickfire franchise competition?" says KP.
"I’m interested in raising the quality and profile of long-form cricket, and at the moment not enough people are really interested. Some people will always dismiss progressive thinking and new ways of developing the game, and some people just want to disagree with everything I say! That’s fine, that’s their issue, but the issue we should all be thinking about is how to revive interest in Test cricket."
Pietersen has also warned about an overkill and consequent burnout. He empathised with Ben Stokes for withdrawing from the Test series against India.
"The players are simply being asked to do too much. Some of the guys in this squad – Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and so on – have just been playing in The Hundred and now they pivot to a Test series. There’s a hell of a lot more cricket than there used to be and needs to be, and that’s just for the viewer, let alone the players.
"Players will continue to pick their schedules and I think that has to be encouraged, otherwise we’re going to see more of them drop out of the game entirely for a while like Stokes has chosen to do," said Pietersen.