Understandably England’s cricket fans are feeling a little down at the moment. The Ashes have been lost, they are 3-0 down in the series and there are two tests still left to play, and their big name players simply have failed to perform.
Yet should they be feeling so bad?
Test Match cricket we are constantly told is dying. Why is it dying? The reasons given are, it takes too long. That the millennials do not have an attention span that will see them follow a test match. That people want sport in bite-size pieces rather than a banquet. Is that really the case? Where is the evidence to back up these claims?
In Adelaide during this Ashes Tour we witnessed the biggest attendance since Douglas Jardine’s infamous Bodyline Tour in 1932/33, so that would tend to fly in the face of these arguments.
Could the reason for the lack of interest be the Tour schedules? Nowadays we see the Touring sides play minimal games against the County, State or Provincial sides prior to a Test match. Then, when they play these “warm-up” games they no longer are treated like a proper match played under match conditions. Also the Tours are packed with not only Test Matches, but also T20 games and One Day Internationals. The money-making has been put ahead of the contest, and the sport is paying a very high price.
If you don’t believe that last comment take a look at the statistics from the past three years.
In the 2015 calendar year, including the series that overlapping at the end of the year 2015/16, there were 44 Test matches played, the home side won 27 of those and the away side won only seven, the rest were drawn matches(10). Not a single series was won by a touring side. Four series were drawn: England in the West Indies 1-1 best of three, New Zealand in England 1-1 best of three, India in Bangladesh was a one off test, and South Africa in Bangladesh 0-0 in a two test series.
In the 2016 Calendar year again including overlapping series at the end of the year 2016/17 there were again 44 Test Matches contested. This time the home side won 34 of those matches, the touring side just five, and there were five draws. Once again not a single series was won by the touring side. There were only two series drawn: Pakistan in England 2-2 best of four, and England in Bangladesh 1-1 best of two.
If we look at the past year up until the date of writing, there have been 30 Test Matches played. The touring side has won just four of those 30 games, while the home side has won 23 of them, and there have been three draws. Once again a touring side has not won a single series on the road. There has been only one Series drawn and that was Australia in Bangladesh 1-1 in a two Test contest.
Incredibly you have to go back to 2012 to find a touring side that won on the road! South Africa won the three test series in Australia 1-0, England won 2-1 in India in a four test series and the West Indies won 2-0 in Bangladesh in a two match series. In fact 2012 was a good year for wins on the road as Australia won in the West Indies, and South Africa won in New Zealand.
In December 2011 Pakistan won in Bangladesh. A month before, in November 2011, Pakistan had won in Sri Lanka, the West Indies had won in Bangladesh and New Zealand had won in Zimbabwe.
So what has happened in the five years since 2012 for not a single touring side to win on their travels?
Surely it cannot be that the players aren’t good enough, as if that was the case they would not win series at home. It has to be that they are not being given enough time to acclimatise to the foreign conditions. They start the series and struggle. They often losing the opening Test and then cannot find their way back.
England fans may be hurting, but these statistics show that they are far from alone.
What is a worry for the administrators is seeing these figures one has to ask why as a cricket fan you would travel to watch your team on the road? Of course to true cricket fans the reason is to visit the historic grounds around the world where wonderful feats have been performed in the past.
Sadly for England Fans they have witnessed their last match at the WACA in Perth, so that may be off the itinerary now. That may in fact be a blessing in disguise, as in 14 visits England won there just once, in 1978, and drew just three times. Hopefully their fortunes will improve at the new venue. However as a Touring side in the current Test match climate, the odds are heavily stacked against them.
At least they should win the Ashes back when they host Australia next in 2019.