I am a firm believer in the oldest and purest form of the game – Test Cricket. The battle between the bat and the ball is the truest test of calibre, mental strength and acumen, belief and stamina. But test cricket is not all that perfect too.
The manager of a popular football club in the EPL put it perfectly, “It is difficult to tell your wife that you’re going out for a match and return only five days later, possibly without a result“. With the advent of ODI‘s and T20’s, Test cricket is losing its appeal, and cricket boards across the globe recognise the threat. Soon the near barren stadiums will be completely barren, and the appreciation for building an innings or persistence with the ball will lose out to slam-bam shots and lethal pace.
The ICC has tried to get more people to the arena by introducing day-night test cricket with the pink ball. But that has only been limited to matches played in Australia. Given the small size of the grounds and lack of infrastructure elsewhere in the world, replicating this format is easier said than done. Also, the continuous trend of the home team ruling the roost thanks to tailor-made pitches is and will continue to prove detrimental to the game. That’s why India, Australia, South Africa and England are all champions when they play at home. It’s only when they go on tour they realise that even champions have flaws.
To cut a long story short, and I hope the ICC is listening, test cricket needs to make two major changes.
- Just like we have neutral umpires for a game, pitches too should be made neutral. The curators under the supervision of the umpires and without any interference from the teams or boards should prepare the track so it favours a good game of cricket and not a team. Only when teams compete in the right spirit without any external advantages you will have a great game for everyone to enjoy.
- Devise a system so every match has a result. Watching a five-day game only to see it end in a draw is frustrating, disappointing and a complete waste of time.
It is said to win a test match you have to win every session. Then why not decide a game, in case it ends in a draw based on the same yardstick. Such a system would ensure that every team plays every session hard and with a purpose to win and not while away time.
Now, what if the aggregate of sessions point to a draw too? That scenario and a multitude of others should be covered in the system too. Agreed the system will not be perfect but will at least push for some innovation in a format that has seen very few in years and aims to spread across the globe.
The pressure of scoring in 20 overs in a T20 game made players innovate. With these changes, test cricket too will be blessed multi-fold.