Players primarily responsible for Test cricket’s sorry state
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Players primarily responsible for Test cricket’s sorry state

Amrit Mathur feels that Test cricket’s situation is such that neither ‘dawa nor dua’ (neither medicine nor blessing) can make a difference.

cricket Updated: Oct 12, 2017 09:09 IST
cricket,Test cricket,Indian Premier League
The rise of Twenty20 cricket has seen the decline in demand for Test cricket among fans.(AP)

When South Africa announced a T20 league despite a projected annual loss of $25 million, it was a telling comment on Test cricket. This confirmed Test cricket was critically ill and everyone had given up hope; it’s condition is so bad neither dua nor dawa could make a difference.

There is an irony to Test cricket’s terrible health. While fans and sponsors have given it the kiss of death, players who are key stakeholders have come out strongly in support. Stars and debutants swear by Tests. In their eyes, Test cricket is Mt Everest, the pinnacle of their business, a mountain they must climb.

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Players to blame

Despite this noble sentiment, players are primarily responsible for Test cricket’s sorry state. One can blame changing lifestyle/ time deficit/T20 for Tests going out of fashion. And yes, a five-day match is a problem. But is there a bigger problem than a game, in any format, that is non-competitive and lacks quality?

Examined through the prism of quality, it is players who have failed Test cricket. A look at the 10-Test playing teams (leaving out Ireland and Afghanistan) shows half of them can’t put a decent team on the park.

Lopsided Tests face fan apathy

The depressing absence of quality is visible in recent results. Sri Lanka were thrashed 3-0 by India, twice by an innings, and once by 394 runs. West Indies lost matches in England by huge margins and Bangladesh’s two losses in South Africa in the just-ended series were by 333 runs and an innings and 254 runs! Given this mismatch, it’s no surprise fans stay away. Muhammad Ali versus Rocky Marciano is a contest. Muhammad Ali fighting Mukri is not even comedy!

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When India played Tests in the West Indies and Sri Lanka the cricket was boring and the stands were so empty it seemed section 144 was in force. If that wasn’t bad enough, we are due for more torture with another three-Test series against Sri Lanka coming up. Test cricket, already on the backfoot, is doomed because of such mindless scheduling.

Cricket officials, desperate to save Tests, are trying different solutions. The ICC thinks the answer is a world Test championship where matches have ‘context’. South Africa wants a four-day Test against Zimbabwe. India has no clear view on the way forward but is considering a financial bailout for players who are Test specialists! The BCCI is saving Test cricketers, not Test cricket.

Day-night ties no answer

As part of the Test bachao campaign, Day-Night matches are held in the hope office-goers will turn up after work. This succeeded partially in Australia, but England’s response was mixed as freezing cold forced spectators to leave early. Pakistan’s attempt in Abu Dhabi failed because nobody there wants to watch cricket, whether played during the day, under lights or over 20 overs.

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Test cricket must have meaning and should be properly promoted. But regardless of the starting time or the colour of clothing or ball, if players produce poor cricket, Tests will face the fate of faxes and landline telephones.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with the Indian Premier League in official capacity)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are personal of the author.

First Published: Oct 12, 2017 08:26 IST