Melbourne:Greg Chappell fears competition in Test cricket could shrink to as few as four countries.
The former Australia captain said on Thursday that the growth in the Twenty20 game and diminishing public interest in the traditional five-day game could see Test cricket marginalized to the fringe of the sport.
Chappell was a star when Test cricket survived the World Series revolution of the late 1970s. The International Cricket Council recovered from the WSC schism to since expand to include 10 full members and dozens of associated members, but now Tests are under threat again.
"I have a feeling that Test cricket is going to reduce in size rather than grow in size," he told reporters Thursday, days after a Marylebone Cricket Club survey confirmed interest in Test cricket was rapidly diminishing in many countries where it is played. "I can see a time where there will be four or five major countries playing Test match cricket."
Chappell played 87 Tests between 1970 and 1984, scoring hundreds in his first and last innings among 24 centuries. He averaged almost 54 in Tests and 40 in 74 One-Day Internationals.
After retiring as a player, he went on to coach in the Australia domestic competition and worked as a consultant coach in Pakistan before a stint as India's head coach from 2005.
His family involvement in the sport goes back to his grandfather, Victor Richardson, who played for Australia from 1924-36, while his brothers, Ian and Trevor Chappell, also played for Australia.
Chappell said the diminishing interest in Test cricket was a good reason for administrators to persevere with the 50-over format amid the growing clamor for Twenty20, the shortest form of the international game.
"It's another reason why 50-over cricket needs to be supported and given a rethink because 50-over cricket could well become the Test cricket of the future for a lot of cricket-playing countries," he said.
He backed the concept of Test cricket under lights and implementing a meaningful Test championship to bring attention back to the longer format, while also ensuring that every limited-overs series has value.
It was WSC which made the 50-over format widely popular and led to renewed interest in cricket, and now Chappell foresees the Indian Premier League taking Twenty20 cricket to new audiences.
"I can see the day when IPL becomes a world format and we'll have New York playing Bombay playing Beijing playing Sydney playing London," he said.
Whichever way the game moves, Chappell said something needed to be done to ensure its survival in the Caribbean.
The West Indies has slipped a long way since it dominated the international game in the 1970s and 80s.
"The region of the West Indies has been one of the great cricket-playing regions and it would be an absolute tragedy in my view if we lost the West Indian region to cricket," Chappell said. "I'm hopeful that some of the work that's being done to help West Indian cricket become strong again is successful, because they're a very important member of the cricket family.
"It's not going to be easy but if the will is there hopefully we can help it."