Test cricket: Time for a change in format

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 13, 2015 21:47 IST

It was in early 2001 — during Australia’s run to equal its own world record of 16 Test wins in a row — that skipper Steve Waugh suggested reducing Test cricket to a four-day affair.

At that time it was seen less a matter of planting a revolutionary idea and more to do with the confidence borne out of the fact that Australia were steamrolling the opposition with more than a day left in the five-day game.

Almost a decade and a half later, few can argue that Test cricket in its current form is on its last legs.

Despite the odd classics it throws up, spectator interest is little unless the level of competition or individual talent on view is of the highest order.

In this context, comments by the incoming England Cricket Board chairman, Colin Graves, advocating the crunching of Test cricket should be welcomed.

Mr Graves has already come across as an outspoken man. He has backed Kevin Pietersen’s return to the English side, pushed for a domestic T20 league and suggested 105 overs in a day — that would mean 420 overs, only 30 fewer than the count for the five-day game.

While the suggestion for a Thursday start, a la golf events, should draw in fans and TV viewers as the match peaks at the weekend, it will only add to the pressure on bowlers to get through the overs.

And fielding captains will feel that strain.

But the commercial advantages in this era of floodlit cricket and the pink ball should carry the day provided other major boards, especially the influential BCCI, back this plan.

We live in an era in which even ODI cricket is desperate to survive.

So, the concerns over Tests will only grow. Moreover, Mr Graves could cite precedents also.

Test cricket became a five-day affair universally only after World War II. In England in the 1920s and 1930s, it was played over three days. In Australia, Test matches were timeless, i.e. they continued until there was a result. So the game has gone through changes.

But in the passing of the great Australian cricketer Richie Benaud, who was fond of introducing novelties into the game, Mr Graves has missed an enlightened sounding board for his fresh idea.

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