'If you provide good pitches, Test cricket cannot be boring' - Sachin Tendulkar
Test cricket can be more exciting if it is played on good pitches, former India batsman Sachin Tendulkar has said, calling the surfaces the format's "heart" and key to its revival.
Tendulkar cited the surface used for the Ashes Test at Lord's last week as an example, especially the competitive phase of play between Steven Smith and Jofra Archer.
"The heart of Test cricket is the kind of surface that you play on. If you provide good pitches, cricket cannot be boring, cricket cannot be damp, and [there will always] be those exciting moments, exciting bowling spells, great batting, and that is what people want to see," Tendulkar said.
Tendulkar felt the duel between Archer and Smith, which included a nasty bouncer from the fast bowler that struck Smith on the neck, got viewers hooked and made Test cricket thrilling to watch.
"Smith got injured unfortunately, that was a big blow to him but Test cricket was exciting when Jofra Archer challenged him, it suddenly became exciting and the focus shifted to Test cricket.
"At Lord's, they lost almost a day and half, but the Test match got exciting even on the last day when England picked [up] those wickets and Australia had to survive. Test cricket suddenly became exciting and that is how it should be."
Following the World Cup, teams have turned their focus to the inaugural World Test Championship, which started with Australia taking on England in the Ashes.
"People almost kind of forgot that four-five weeks ago, there was World Cup being played in England, nobody is talking about that, everyone is talking about Test cricket," Tendulkar said.
Tendulkar, who is the highest run-scorer in Tests with 15921 runs from 200 Tests, emphasised the need to prepare "interesting tracks" to revive interest in the longest format.
"I think Test cricket is going to revive if we produce interesting tracks, but if the tracks are flat and dead then Test cricket is going to find its challenges. I know this World Test Championship has been announced but even to have this World Championship, you've got to make cricket interesting, just by having another championship, cricket is not going to get interesting.
Tendulkar also stressed on the art of leaving and defending the ball while heaping praise on Australia's Marnus Labuschagne. After his defiant 59 at Lord's coming in as Smith's concussion substitute, he made a well-crafted 74 and 80 at Headingley, pulling Australia out of trouble on all three occasions.
"I have been watching a little bit of Ashes and I thought someone like Marnus Labuschagne has left the ball brilliantly, which is something that you don't get to see in Test cricket. Normally you tend to glide those balls to third man and pick [up] a single. But the kind of surfaces they are playing on, if you steer the ball you go to the dressing room.
"You need to leave those balls or defend solidly. And the guys who have not been able to do that, they have been watching the game from the dressing room."