Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the guardian of the laws of the game, is in the favour of five-day Test cricket as talks of mulling over four-day Tests in cricket circles became a hot potato after International Cricket Council (ICC) proposed the recommendation.
The ICC will hold a meeting in the coming months to discuss the idea of abridging Test matches to four days as they look to devise the future tours programme.
The idea of four-day Test has not been received warmly by cricket fraternity who have put their weight behind continuing with the conventional five-days of Test cricket.
ICC suggested the proposal by keeping in mind packed international cricket schedule and as a move to curb the costs of organising Test cricket which often drives sparse crowds in stadiums, barring a few exceptions such as The Ashes between England and Australia.
The opinion has been polarised into those who support reducing the number of days and people who do not want any tinkering with cricket's most sacred format.
ICC had experimented with four-day Test before in 2017 when a Test between South Africa and Zimbabwe and another Test between England and Ireland were held as four-day affairs.
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The MCC Cricket Committee and MCC World Cricket Committee both have adamantly advocated for pursuing unchangingly five-day Tests beyond 2023—even though they realise there could be some advantages of reducing the number of days.
“MCC has noted the recent discussion regarding the future of Test cricket and the ICC’s desire to debate the introduction of four-day Test cricket to replace the current five-day format in the World Test Championship from 2023," a statement from MCC read.
“The MCC Cricket committee and MCC World Cricket committee have recently discussed the issue and although they can see some benefits that four-day Test cricket could bring, both committees believe that Test cricket should continue to be played over five days.”
Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) executive chairman Tony Irish emphasized there was “currently a lot of negative sentiment” related to the ICC's four-day proposal.
Many top drawer players including Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli have supported five-day-Tests and Pakistan's head coach and former captain Misbah-ul-Haq alongside bowling coach Waqar Younis have opposed four-day-Tests vehemently.
There has been some pressure from broadcasters to shorten the length of Test matches especially in situations when a match becomes a dead rubber and during contests between mismatched sides as stakeholders often incur losses in such cases. That being said, four-day Tests are not part of the ongoing maiden World Test Championship.
Four-day-Tests could culminate in more draw games and allow less time for the teams to push for a result. In addition, in an event of rain or bad light, it could further diminish the chances of a decisive result.
However, scrapping off a day from Test matches could allow scheduling of Test matches in a way that they end on a weekend and it could prompt players to up the intensity throughout the game, helping to avoid uneventful sessions of play.
On the other hand, pursuing with traditional five day Test matches, which has been the case since 1979, would mean the records will be comparable from the past and there will be no need to produce bowling conducive conditions that would help the bowlers but as a double edge sword could make life difficult for the batsmen no matter what part of the world they play.
In the recently concluded series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, both teams struggled to deliver 90 overs in a day amid frequent rain interruptions, quickly fading daylight in the winter season and having four quick bowlers in Pakistan's side didn't help them complete the quota of overs as well.
Furthermore, spinners won't be amused with four-day Tests considering how pitches deteriorate on the fourth and fifth day of Test match which brings the likes of Nathan Lyon or Yasir Shah into the equation and they become much more menacing with rough patches on a surface.
Also, the five-day Test factor in players' endurance and fitness to the maximum. Taking away a day from the red-ball game might allow the most persevering players to lose on the advantage against those who are not supremely fit.