Monday, July 11, 2011

Test Cricket is no longer intuitive

Best Blog Tips

For the times Test cricket is played in; for the competition that Test cricket finds itself facing; it's a far too nuanced game for its own good. Modern; and dare I say; rational; spectators demand the game be intuitive. There is a growing tendency among Test cricket lovers to disconnect from reality and hang on to those very nuances of Test cricket that are threatening to make the game irrelevant. Of course it was prudent for India to call off the chase at Dominica; question is why does Test cricket afford this option to a team. To walk off. To claim a 'no-result' when a result was inevitable. 

How long would sports like tennis, boxing, athletics, survive if participants are allowed to collectively decide and effectively strike in the middle of a contest?

The best scoreline that can capture the series concluded yesterday between India and the West Indies is 

T20: 1 Tests : 0 (Rahul and Laxman walk-off)

There are fines, bans and all sorts of tricks employed by the game's governing body to speed up the game. Its working too. In one of the sessions in the 3rd Test, I saw India bowling at the rate of 16.2 overs per hour. Perhaps they had one eye on the Lord's Test. Whatever the reason, the game had picked up pace. 

And what did they do with the time that was created over the first 4 days?

They shook hands and went home. Presumably to their hotel rooms.

Rational thinking fans can't be blamed if they were waiting to see how much of the contesting team's match fees would be cut. They played only 80 overs when 98 was the ask. The 18 overs they refused to play would surely have been the most exciting 18 overs of the entire match assuming India were willing to risk the series,

The problem with Test cricket is what happened is entirely defensible. 

India did not want to risk a series and the only way West Indies would win is if India were willing to do just that. And without getting into either defending or criticizing India's approach; I ask...why does a team in Test cricket, even have the option of just walking away.

I mean they play 2 entire Tests, in a 5 match series even if one side has won the first 3 and the series is won. Isn't it a bit like being penny wise and pound foolish when teams are allowed to walk off to save a few overs of effort that is unlikely to change the end result when meaningless Tests and ODIs are played under the same circumstances.

In my view this series was already rendered inconsequential by a series of actions. Sehwag, Gambhir, Zaheer and Yuvraj choosing IPL over this series. Sachin Tendulkar trying to pass of Roger Federer as "family" and Chris Gayle and his tasteless tussle with the WICB.

This 'walk off' by two of India's all time great batsmen isn't going to add any more ignominy than that was already conferred on this series. But allowing batsmen of this caliber to walk away from the contest adds no qualitative attributes to the game. While India's actions can be defended; they raise questions as to whether today's teams can be trusted to take decisions that will help the game in the long run. 

A few decades from now when some noted film maker decides to produce a documentary lamenting the state of Test cricket, this India v West Indies series will be exhibit A. When the need for Test cricket was to make it relevant for today's fans; its greatest ambassadors walked away. 

Sachin, Rahul and Laxman

See Also


Anonymous said...

The problem with Test cricket is its rules.

It allows the fielding team to bowl negatively (wide of leg or off stump) and set lop-sided fields (on 1 side), while putting all the onus & risk of positive cricket on the batting team.

It doesn't allow for a reserve day in places where it rains a lot. And so a clearly superior England have to settle for a 1-0 vs a SL, when 1 more day in each Test would have brought a 3-0 result. And a clearly superior India are also denied a 3-0. (130 overs lost in Barbados, more than 90 overs lost in Dominica due to rain)

And players from India or anywhere else are human. And regular humans, not saints. It means if their board schedules series after series without adequate breaks, players will choose the series with high earnings (IPL)and high prestige (England series), and prefer rest during less consequential series (WI).

PS: Only saints or completely self-sacrificing humans have the right to look down on normal human behaviour (which is within the law of the land).

Golandaaz said...


Agree with you, its the rules.

Your St. v Human point and looking down; I will give it a pass :-) its too complicated...

Bottom line is many players chose IPL over test cricket and I see that you too agree to that

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply, Golandaaz.

But I wasn't saying that players will or should always prefer IPL over Test cricket.

I said that players will prefer IPL over a Test series against a low-ranked team when their board doesn't give them a decent break to recover after a series (SA tour, 2-3 weeks later WC, 1 week later IPL, 1 week later WI, 4 days later off to England for 4 Tests, 5 ODIs, 1 T20).

And I can understand and accept the players' decision. I don't consider it ideal behaviour, but it is normal human behaviour (most people prefer a work project that pays more or brings prestige).

But Test cricket against well-respected opposition remains the No. 1 aspiration of most players. From Sachin, Rahul and VVS to Yuvraj, Sreesanth and Utthapa.

And once we have the Test Championship from 2013, Test cricket will become stronger.

But we do need more common sense like having a reserve day in places where it rains a lot (and you have no choice but to schedule games in the rainy season - like WI and England)