Mumbai: Did Test cricket ever really enjoy top precedence in India? Will a series-win in Australia ever match the emotional high of a World Cup triumph?
Former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi reckoned the problem lies with the fans who are more attracted to the shorter versions of the game. "We are not like Australia or England, where crowds live and die by Test cricket. We just don't get enough crowd support while playing Test cricket, and it's the Board's duty to keep generating interest in the format.
"In a way everything that is happening (the heavy loss against England) is for the good. Suddenly, youngsters are realising Tests is the ultimate thing," Pautadi told MiD DAY.
In 1998, India played 40 ODIs -- compared to 12 and 25 by England and Australia respectively.
India toured England for just six Tests between 1990 and 2002 and suffered seven defeats (of 8 Tests) in Australia between 1991 and 2003.
Once the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) even pushed back touring New Zealand for several years just to fulfil Asian Cricket Council (ACC) commitments such as the Asia Cup and mundane tri-nation tournaments in Sharjah.
In 2007, BCCI requested the England board to swap an additional Test with two ODIs.
However, the minute India catapulted to the No 1 ranking in Tests in 2009, BCCI snapped at an impending marketing strategy.
Last year, BCCI propelled Cricket Australia to change its tour itinerary from a seven-match ODI series to a two-Test and three-ODI series. As a result, India's 2-0 win helped strengthen their stranglehold of the top ranking.
"Definitely, BCCI saw it as a way to popularise the format. Moving to No 1 was great, we are playing more Tests. BCCI should continue to promote T20 to attract masses but that should not coincide with first-class cricket," added Pataudi. Meanwhile, England will regain the Pataudi Trophy at the end of The Oval Test.
Pataudi said the only bright spot was that stalwarts Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were genuine lovers of Tests. "One thing we can hope for is that Dravid and Tendulkar will leave behind a legacy. We cannot teach youngsters to love Test cricket, it needs to come from within. They need to grow up admiring Dravid's technique and Sachin's straight drive, not T20 sloggers.
"My solution is make first-class cricket interesting. Youngsters who get their basics in place (by playing more first-class cricket), will also shine in IPL. We will produce better cricketers," he concluded.