Monday, August 17, 2009


The Only Road Ahead For Test Cricket (Part 2)

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(Click here for Part 1)

Given all the recent and frenzied noises about the future of Test cricket from many that walk the corridors of power of world cricket, the following is the second of a two-part series offering a simple, effective and practical solution to fortify the primacy and sanctity of Test cricket.

While I have significant doubts about the validity of the doomsday theories pertaining to the future of Tests, as I said in Part 1, there is a distinct need to ensure that the game changes to adapt to world that is not what it was in the 1950's. Simple things that are the pet peeves of many cricket fans and that need to be urgently improved, include:

Pitches
The bane of attacking, entertaining and result-oriented Test cricket, host boards must be punished for deliberately producing lifeless and barren pitches. Test pitches must offer some assistance for bowlers. A century should have to be earned, not just a formality after surviving the first 20 balls of an innings. I'd rather have a Test match that finishes in 3 days than one where it takes 4 days to finish just two innings.

Secondly, it doesn't worry me if the pitches offer spin from Day 1. There is simply nothing wrong with a surface that turns square early in a Test match. Fast bowlers are no more sacrosanct than spinners and administrators must resist the temptation to adopt the antipodean view that the best Test pitch must offer something to fast bowlers during the early stages of a match. If this is possible, then all well and good. But, it should not be mandatory, for spinners are just as important as the quicks.

Timing
Why is it that when time is lost due to weather or other unsuitable conditions, breaks for lunch and tea remain unaltered. Would it not make more sense to shorten lunch and tea breaks to maximise playing time? Surely, this is a no-brainer.

Points System
Given that I am proposing a league that will require a points table to decide the winner, the relegated and the promoted. It is crucial that the points system actively encourages attacking and result-oriented cricket. After observing the boring cricket played in first class leagues the world over which offer points for a first innings lead, I am convinced that points for a first innings lead must not be awarded in a Test championship. Instead teams should be awarded 1 point for a draw, 2 points for a tie, 4 points for an outright win and 8 points for an innings victory.

This points system will promote attacking and entertaining cricket and will reward teams and captains who are prepared to take risks.

Ensuring the Presence of the Big Boys
A school of thought in opposition to a league-style Test championship believes that it is important to ensure that the big boys continue to play each other, irrespective of the quality of cricket on offer. You might not be surprised to learn that this is not a view to which I subscribe.

My premise is simple: traditional rivalries attract significant viewer interest, and thereby media coverage, only when the two combatants are well-matched. Case in point Australia and West Indies - the Frank Worrell Trophy was keenly anticipated and contested when the West Indies had a team worthy of their proud history. Now, due to the Windies' unbroken decline this series attracts as much fanfare and media attention as Australia v Bangladesh. New rivalries that capture spectator attention are then developed in place of these former "marquee" series, eg. Australia v India.

Therefore, if a former cricketing superpower is demoted from the "Elite" league, this can only be a sign that that team's standards have nosedived to such an extent that that team's series no longer deserve the viewership or media attention of an era past.

Night Cricket
The issue of night Test cricket is one on which I believe administrators, for all their operational and strategic ineptness, actually have their heart in the right place. The fact remains, however, that the integrity of Test cricket must not be compromised by a move to night time cricket. A large component of maintaining this integrity is ensuring that the ball used for night Test cricket behaves in exactly the same way as the traditional red balls in use today. Since this issue is the most significant impediment to the introduction of night Test cricket, administrators must remain firm demanding a like-for-like product when negotiating with ball manufacturers, broadcasters and sponsors.

What do you think? Are these ideas practical? Are they even necessary?


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