February 1, 2006

Where is Test Cricket Headed ?

February 01, 2006 Posted by Vijay 2 comments
India suffered a mammoth defeat at the hands of Pakistan in Karachi today. A defeat as huge as 341 runs, in a span of 4 days. Well, in the past, such a defeat could have been thought of to happen if a team posts a huge score of 600, batting 2 days long, and then bowling out the opposition twice in the next 2 days. Times have changed dramatically though. In the Karachi test which got over, in 4 days it was possible to complete 4 innings, and yet have such a thumping defeat. In 4 days it was possible to score over 1300 runs, that is, more than 400 runs per day. Mind you, that too in less than the stipulated 90 overs a day's play. So, that makes it nearly 4.5 runs per over everyday. This is test cricket in the 21st century !

For the spectators, it is delightful to watch runs being scored rapidly in test cricket. Lot of shots and runs galore. Looking back at the past 5-6 years, test cricket has changed dramatically. The change to such hectic pace of test innings was started off by Australia, when Steve Waugh took over the reigns from Mark Taylor. One of the major contributors to this revolution has undoubtedly been Adam Gilchrist. He did not change his game plan in test matches vis-a-vis' his one dayers. Justin Langer, then Mathew Hayden followed suit. Autrailia's game plans were simple. Score runs at a fast clip, and make 400-500 runs in under 5 sessions, then leave it to world class bowlers in Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath & co. Game over in under 4 days, inevitably the winners being Autralia.

But in order to bowl out the opposition twice, 20 wickets were need, and Australia had the luxury(still has) of world class bowlers, for whom, attacking fields were sey. Game, set and match to Autralia. But the attacking field setting also backfired badly on Australia. Whenever Australia has lost, it has been due to such fields. Their famous Kolkata match against India comes to mind, when VVS Laxman played the epic knock of 281. Australia had garnered their 490 odd runs in such quick time, that they forgot, India could come back into the match with more than 3 days to play.That is exactly what happened. India followed on, but managed to score more than 600 runs in their second essay,and still had time to bowl out Australia on the last day. Reason ? 1. Fast clip at which Australia scored runs 2. Attacking field set by Australia when India batted, which helped Laxman score lots of boundaries.

Records have tumbled like anything in the last 5-6 years. The world record score in test cricket has been broken twice, the highest ever run chase in Test cricket has been achieved,fastest ever double century in test cricket was broken twice, highest number of runs ever in test cricket was achieved. All this in modern day test cricket. While all this is entertaining, is Test Cricket losing what it set out to achieve ? To test the discipline, concentration levels of cricketers ? Playing in one day mode, quick fire runs are scored, and wickets too are lost. So more than likely that in under 5 days results are obtained. Draws have become lesser. This is not to say that exciting draws haven't happened. Ashes series 2005 had 2 sensational draws and there was another in the England/South Africa 2004 series. But, it seems concentration is no longer the name of the game.

Only one name comes to mind, who is still the old form of test cricketers, Rahul Dravid. He is one player who is still in the older mould of players, who can destroy an opposition, by his sheer defensive prowess and concentration levels. That is why India has been successful more so in the past 3-4 years, with Dravid delivering match after match. If India had to save the test match at Karachi, Dravid was the only hope for them. Two days to play out and all stroke makers in the Indian lineup. All, on the lookout for quick runs, shorter levels of concentration, and supposedly "going for victory". It's all great to be positive and look for a win. But to save a match needs a lot of guts,application and determination. Test cricket has become devoid of players like Dravid. As a result, India folded in under 2 sessions, chasing 607, but still managed to score 265 at more than 4 per over. Instead, if India had scored at 3 per over and not gone after the bowling, they could have had a chance to save the match. But, India doesn't have players to follow after Dravid, who know what sticking at the wicket means. That cost India dearly.

Test cricket has become exciting, but one wonders, if the possibility of "match saving" innings have come to an end. Dull draws though, still happen, the India-Pak 1st and 2nd tests being proof of this. Where is test cricket headed ? To a 4 day format, and 80 overs per day reduced affair ? Wouldn't that take out the concentration abilities of a batsman ? To withstand hostile conditions, say for 13-14 hours at the crease ? Only time will tell. But the world definitely needs players like Dravid, to keep Test cricket what it was meant to be.


Googlogger said...

I completely agree with you on the impact of Dravid on Indian Test Cricket. I hoped yesterday Sachin would have showed his class and rescued India.

Prabha said...

a cric post again!!!