Test cricket: In danger from its own protectors
ICC has failed to make Test cricket more attractive in competition with the Twenty20 format.
While the International Cricket Council (ICC) ponders over ways to make Test cricket more attractive in competition with the electrifying (and lucrative) Twenty20 format, it continues to do more harm than good to the purest form of the sport.
Was there a Test series in Sri Lanka, really?
Who knows what the ICC was thinking when it decided to have a Test series in Sri Lanka during the monsoon season. The rain had the final say in the first Test at Galle, which ended up in a draw. Unfortunately, Chris Gayle’s second triple century could not receive the fan viewing it truly deserved.
The second Test ended in a draw too, with just over 200 overs being bowled. Only 11 overs could be bowled on the final day of the match.
What’s worse is the way these 11 overs unfolded. West Indies were down two wickets chasing a target of 202 runs, and Sri Lanka needed eight more wickets to get a lead in the series. Now that is what cricket fans around the world love to see, and if ICC wants to save Test cricket, it needs to prevent such days from getting washed away by rain.
How is the third (and final) Test match of the series going in Pallekele? The first three days were played with only 81 overs, a little less than the minimum overs assigned to one day’s play in a Test match. As I write this piece, the fourth day is being ruined after just 20 overs of cricket.
As it is, Test cricket does not get many spectators in Sri Lanka, and the few people that do show up at the ground, end up leaving, not entertained but disappointed.
And then there are The Ashes
The ICC didn’t just schedule this series in time with the Sri Lankan monsoon but also with the year’s most anticipated Test competition - the Ashes. It is safe to say, even if it wasn’t raining in Pallekele, that most Test cricket fans (who are dwindling in number) would rather follow the delightful second Test between England and Australia at Adelaide.
The Ashes has truly lived up to expectations so far, except for the fourth and fifth days of the first match at Gabba. Hussey’s glorious come back to form with sublime drives and immaculate pull shots, Siddle’s opening day hat-trick, and Anderson’s superb but unlucky swing bowling in the first match has set up for a gripping contest to look forward to.
Blame the ICC
Once again, ICC’s lethargic and disorganised management is to be blamed for the result of the match in Brisbane. The pitch for the first Test seemed to be prepared for a 10-day Test match, or maybe even longer. There was nothing in the pitch for the bowlers, where records fell as the batsmen piled up runs- and ICC erroneously ignored this.
Viewers were expecting a closer contest between bat and ball when England wrapped up for a meager total of 260 on the opening day. Even though the Australian top order struggled, Hussey and Haddin took their time settling in and then took full advantage of the dead Gabba pitch. It was then England’s turn to join the run fest. Their top three batted, batted and then batted some more, until all hope of a result was lost.
The match that promised so much on the first couple of days turned out to be utterly dull and boring. After all the anticipation coming into the game and the emotional rollercoaster the match had been, all we got was a draw.
Time and again, the ICC has failed to hold the curators accountable for providing us with such flat pitches, which do injustice to the players and the fans. This will keep happening unless the ICC gets its hands dirty and digs deeper into these issues.
As the future of Test cricket hangs in balance, one can only hope that the ICC can identify these loopholes and make amends before it’s too late. Nothing can replace the thrill and excitement of Test cricket, and the ICC needs to do all in its power to keep it alive.