Analysis: Will The Five-Dayer Withstand The Test Of Time?

Analysis: Will The Five-Dayer Withstand The Test Of Time?

It is incumbent upon the ICC to encourage the cricket boards of all Test-playing countries to play more and more Tests without tampering with the original format

Sumit PaulUpdated: Wednesday, February 07, 2024, 11:25 PM IST
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Sir Vivian Richards | File Pic

“I like to play test cricket. It is really challenging, because you need to really score runs, stay on the wicket and continue for five days.” — Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan great

The recently concluded second Test between the Proteas and Indians at the Newlands in Cape Town, South Africa threw open the doors of a raging debate over the future of the conventional five-day Test matches. The match, cricket history's shortest-ever, ended inside two days. Soon after, yet another Test between Australia and WI ended inside three days. This gives fodder to those who have been critical of the classic format of cricket being played since 1877. Now the million-dollar question is: Will Test cricket survive?

Though Test matches are still being played, the numbers have gone down. Now it has become a perfunctory fixture, squeezed in somewhere between T-20s and one-dayers. The two-Test “series” in South Africa is the best example of the rarity of Test matches because a three-Test series between the two countries would have created a perfect finale. The critics of Test cricket are of the opinion that the spectators are getting bored with the longest format of the game and they look for “quickies” in the form of the “carnival” cricket of T-20s and other exiguous forms of the game. This is an erroneous perception; as fallacious as to say that item songs are being churned out because listeners don't like old numbers. The way listeners still listen to the classics, purists and true cricket-lovers still prefer Test cricket over “pyjama” cricket.

Test cricket is the true test of a cricketer’s endurance, class, patience and cricketing skills. Despite a cricketer’s fame in one-dayers and other formats, it’s Test cricket that showcases his talents in full bloom. You have the best examples of two cricketing geniuses, the peerless Sir Vivian Richards and the great Wasim Akram. In spite of their remarkable exploits in one dayers, the world knows them as the supreme exponents of Test cricket. Sir Viv is considered to be the greatest-ever one-day cricketer. He certainly is but it was his stupendous performance in Test cricket that got him stardom and catapulted him to the highest pedestal of cricket where he rubbed shoulders with Sir Don Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Jack Hobbs, all Test players of the highest level.

Do we get to see exquisite late cuts from the blades of Gundappa Vishwanath and Vijay Merchant in one dayers and T-20s? Do the spectators get to watch Sunny’s straight drives, Hammond, Hazare and Zaheer Abbas’ classic cover drives, Sir Clyde Walcott's imperious pulls and hooks, Sir Frank Worrell’s sweep shots, Sir Everton Weeks’ leg glances, Sobers’ effortless squire cuts and drives in any other form of cricket?

The pecuniary concerns and considerations of today’s commercial world have relegated the gentleman’s game to a commodity and a piece of merchandise in the cheap market of consumerism. There are vested interests involved in the game; so Test cricket is not being promoted.

Now it is incumbent upon the ICC to encourage the cricket boards of all Test-playing countries to play more and more Tests without tampering with the original format. For example, there's no need to make Test-cricket a four-day affair. It must always be played with a red ball, no pink or white ball should be used in Test cricket. When batsmen wear protective gear, why should numbers of bouncers be restricted? Didn’t Gavaskar bat against those fiery pacers of the West Indies when there were no restrictions on bouncers? Did he wear a helmet? Agreed, helmets are a must now for protection. But bowlers should also get the advantage of bowling bouncers and beamers without restrictions.

The pristine form of anything is always sacrosanct. Test cricket is the most sacred form of cricket and ICC must organise more Tests and encourage cricket-playing countries to retain the sanctity of Test cricket. What is immediately needed is the scrapping of the foolish idea of a two-Test series. How can a two-Test series be competitive? It becomes perfunctory. First make it a minimum four-Test series. Lastly, don’t make Test cricket utterly experimental. Don’t turn it into a day-night fiasco. The way too many cooks spoil the broth, too many experiments have killed the essence of Test cricket.

Lastly, there still seems to be a glimmer of hope for Test cricket and a faint silver lining in the cloud, going by the way West Indies registered a scintillating victory over the Aussies at the Gabba in Brisbane thanks to Shamar Joseph’s exploits in the just concluded two-Test series. They rightly say, all is not lost.

Sumit Paul is a regular contributor to the world’s premier publications and portals in several languages

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