Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sri Lanka and West Indies cricket take the lead

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The recent decision by the Sri Lankan and West Indies Cricket boards to scrap Test matches in favor of ODIs, possibly involving India in a tri-series is a brave one. After the initial rolling of the eyes, I settled down to understand that this is actually a sane decision.

The scrapping of the Test Matches means that both Sri Lanka and West Indies can allow their players to play the entire season of IPL. While the presidents/executives of both boards will deny this, and indeed Sri Lanka's has, the motivation for this move is transparent to all.

Test Cricket needs to be played in earnestness or not at all.

When India and New Zealand shoe horn a 2 Test series with no practice games, when marquee teams like Australia and South Africa play a 2 Test series, when South Africa are in England for as long as they have been this summer and have only 3 Tests to show for it, when India's players treat tours to the West Indies as an entirely voluntary exercise, its like even the game's leaders are simply ticking the Test Cricket box on a checklist as conformance to the Future Tours and Programs.

Lip Service is what that is.

The Future Tours and Programs is increasingly looking like a weather forecast or worse an astrology reading. Its not a guarantee for anything other than the likelihood that the featured events might occur.

By contrast the lesser boards; lesser in monetary terms strictly; do not have the funds to even pay the lip service to the format like India, England, South Africa and Australia do and are thus forced to take the lead in confronting the truth that unless there is a will among the cricket playing nations, Test cricket is not worth the trouble. These smaller boards by their actions will either accelerate the eventual demise or force the men who matter to decide if cricket should follow the money at all costs.

When men like Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble suggest that all 3 formats can survive, without the need to address anything really, I wonder if they are simply joking, saying a straight faced lie, are incapable to comprehend the impact of IPL and the other leagues, or are simply reading out from the BCCI party line afraid not to jeopardize future incomes. Whatever the case, these statements sound hollow, far removed from reality, and clearly not what these gentlemen truly think. Because as players they were both analytical and articulate.

India obviously want to milk every dollar they can via the IPL and are in no mood to play the lead in devising anything that might sustain Test cricket. So while its administrators and legendary players continue their lip services to Test Cricket, the New Zealands, Sri Lankas and the West Indies of the world will adapt their cricket to the new model and the Test World will shrink.

When a game far more boring than cricket, Golf, that like Test cricket goes on for 4 days before a winner emerges, can be a money making machine; I do not quite get the do-nothing-because-there-is-no-money-in-test-cricket line of wisdom


Govind Raj said...

Test Cricket needs to be played in earnestness or not at all.

Quote of the decade !

CricketNNS said...

This was a horrible decision by the SLC and WICB, in my honest opinion. All they want is the money, they don't care for the fans I guess. In order for Test cricket to survive, Tests must be given importance in every series. If you want to play 5 ODIs, then attach a Test along with it too. Cricket will not be the same once Test cricket is gone.

Uday said...

Makes you wonder whether Test cricket is inherently unmarketable or have they just not put in enough of an effort to market it. I think that to sustain attention over five days with long passages of not-so-exciting play, there needs to be a compelling narrative to the match, such as the rankings, or a historic rivalry. (Personally, I wouldn't watch an India West Indies test match in India, say, unless I wanted to watch a couple of young Indian players in action) Unfortunately, I think this is a result of so few countries being competitive in test cricket while the range of stars and competitiveness is much higher in the shorter forms. Nothing can match the drama and excitement of a good test match for sure, but then nothing can match the tedium of a one sided and listless test match either

Golandaaz said...

Govind, Thanks!

Uday, I am of the opinion that the administrators have not tried enough. The very least marquee rivalries need to be protected. There isn't enough evidence that attempts have been made to market test cricket.

Try This

If golf can be profitable then test cricket can too

Uday said...

Thats a very good piece. I agree that cricket expansion today is all about bringing in thrills and excitement, and that they could do a better job marketing it for what it is - a game of sophistry and nuance. However, I think marketing follows success and not the other way round, in much the same way that interest in T20 in India really took off after the 2007 world cup win. Im sure that Test cricket will become popular again in Sri Lanka and the West Indies once they start performing really well. As for the IPL, its popularity probably has more to do with the idea of cricketers from different countries playing in the same team than the format itself.

Vidooshak said...

Cricket itself T20 and all will die without Test cricket. Who goes to IPL games to see Luke Ronchi or Manpreet Gony? Last time I checked, it's the test stars that brought in T20 spectators.

So gutting test matches is a probably a death knell for commercial cricket.

Bala said...

The main problem with Test Cricket the matches can be very boring even for a classical fan if the teams are not equally strong. Whereas in T20s the teams are mostly levelled by the nature of the game. In the meanwhile i found ODIs the most boring as it has a very predictable template and the trills of intial overs and slog overs have been dwarfed by the T20 thrills. So ODIs will be the first one to die according to me.

Golandaaz said...

Uday, valid point that success perhaps comes first but what's happening now is a disservice to the format.

IPL's popularity will only grow and its a good thing. But do the boards have the control to put itself on a diet and control the urges to live off of fast food, ice cream and cigarretts all year long? Clearly they are not

I think more than countries 'doing well' its getting the prestige back in Test cricket. When I started following cricket,India were pathetic. Lost all the time and yet a generation of us were fans. I don't agree that Test Cricket needs close rivalries or close finishes or that teams need to do better before fans follow.

Golandaaz said...

Vidoo, I think that's changing. These small time cricketers too have a following of their own...I think IPL can thrive even without test cricket

I mean when SRT, Zaheer and the like negotiate with the BCCI that they be paid their IPL contract value in case they get injured playing for India and have to miss the IPL,says everything isn't it?

Test cricket is clearly a hardship to even the mega billionaires and legends of the game.

I think what SL and WI have done is good. They are the 2 teams most affected by the IPL and they can no longer afford to sing the party line that 'all three formats can exist'...

Golandaaz said...

Bala, These problems you list are true of any sport. In soccer where rivalries among countries is strong, there is tradition, context, and high quality all over players prefer club over country. Cricket is headed the same way.

The problem is not then the Test cricket format the problem is cricket too has found money

Vidooshak said...

Gol -

I'm not sure that compensating marquee players for IPL proves that T20 can sustain itself. Much like ODIs have an air of predictability, T20s too have now become more "scientific" as opposed to driven by flair. It's a matter of time before too many no-name players start reigning in T20 for a season or two and fizz away. Paul Valthaty anyone?

Golandaaz said...

Vidoo, I think the reality in India is different. People who never watched cricket are now watching the IPL. They now know these small time players. They don't seem to care if the guy has a Test Future. The IPL is the world to them. While its true IPL owes its start up success to Test stars, frankly it does not need test cricket at all. The IPL in a couple of years will be robust enough to sustain itself on the basis of the stars it creates from within it.

Sachin and Co have sensed it and they are all ensuring they don't do anything stupid to kill the golden goose. They all want to benifit from it, the talk of 3 formats and Test cricket being ultimate is just a front

That T20 itself will run its course and become as boring as 50 over cricket is possible but by that time the IPL will become a self sustaining indian past time. With India's population it can become the premierest of the premiere leages in all sport said...

I am really but happily surprised by West Indies's performan not so much by Sri Lanka's because I have seen them before, not the case with West Indies, good for them and for cricket as a competitive sport