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Poor batting quality making Test cricket dull to watch for fans

Nothing sums up the current poor situation of batting better than South Africa’s travails on their tour of Sri Lanka just after their high of beating Australia at home.

cricket Updated: Jul 24, 2018 20:09 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sri Lanka vs South Africa,Test cricket,Test batting
Nothing sums up the current poor situation of batting better than South Africa’s travails on their tour of Sri Lanka just after their high of beating Australia at home.(REUTERS)

Even as One-day International cricket witnesses a spike in batting records, with highest totals, double centuries and milestones in record innings being reached, the standard of batting in Test cricket has seen a decline in recent years with batsmen lacking answers to counter difficult situations.

Nothing sums up the current poor situation better than South Africa’s travails on their tour of Sri Lanka just after their high of beating Australia at home.

In Sri Lanka, South Africa fell for 126, 73 and 124 — their lowest totals in the island nation where they have travelled five times before. This South Africa capitulation comes after their 3-1 series win over Australia at home where the Aussies got to 300 only once in eight innings.

The dip in standards has been more evident over the past five years (2013-2018) as compared to the period of five years before that (2008-2012).

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While the averages of the top five batting positions have dipped, most of the teams have been chopping and changing their line-ups more often, leaving very few batsmen certain of their spots.

Virat Kohli at No. 4 for India and Kane Williamson at No. 3 for New Zealand have been the surest of their places.

Former India batsman Anshuman Gaekwad agrees the standards have gone down.

“If you compare it with 1970s and 1980s or even 1990s, they have gone down for sure. But even in recent times, the quality has taken a dip. Earlier, you had four or five batsmen who could get big hundreds or three or four strike bowlers who could take wickets,” said Gaekwad.

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“Now, you have just one or at the most two. If they are out or don’t perform, the team capitulates.”

Gaekwad, a former India head coach, pointed out the reasons. “There are two reasons mainly. One is the over-reliance on technology. Everything is done by the video analyst or coaching experts. Everything is readymade for you.

“Batsmen don’t think about their batting on their own. Unless you yourself think about your batting and the flaws therein, you don’t learn.

“While it is good to have them, such support staff should be there only in a complementary role. Second reason is excessive cricket, which doesn’t give you time to correct your technique.

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“If you play domestic cricket you get a chance to work on your flaws in a relaxed atmosphere. But these days, either you iron out flaws in nets or in competitive matches, where there is pressure already.”

Former India spinner Maninder Singh believes the decline in standard has also been due to poor quality pitches being dished out frequently.

“You saw India doing it for a while recently but then after being criticised, they got back to giving decent wickets. But Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh have taken it to the other extreme,” he said.

“You are now having Test matches where you are opening with a spinner on Day One. This is something batsmen don’t prepare for. In our days, it was a rarity, once in a blue moon.

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“But now giving sub-standard wickets is becoming the norm. When you see pitches like these, you feel there is truth in the fear that Test cricket will die soon.”

First Published: Jul 24, 2018 14:12 IST