Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The life and death of test cricket

This week, we've seen one of the classic test matches. Set 310 to win, Australia and South Africa battled it out, with each side looking well set, only to be clawed back by their opponents. It was left to 18 year old debutant Pat Cummins, to come in with his side 8 down, and smash the 13 runs needed to see Australia to victory. It was a game that had everything - some excellent batting, some awesome bowling, some jittery collapses and some stoic partnerships. It was test cricket at it's finest, with bat and ball always in keen competition, and neither side giving the other an inch.

Contrast that to events this week in Mumbai. West Indies, a team hardly known for their batting exploits (indeed, they only possessed 7 test centuries between them) have batted through the first two days, and are 575/9 at the close of play on the second. Already, some of the Indian bowlers have been complaining about the back-breaking serface that's been served up to them, and with justifiable cause. When the West Indies are dismissed, India will then have to come out and bat, and will no doubt rack up a similiar score with no time left to force any sort of result. Even when the game in Johannesburg was reaching it's climax, it was impossible to predict which way the game would go. Contrast that to Mumbai, where the captains may as well shake hands on the draw now and save everyone the bother of turning up for the next few days.

The game in South Africa proved just how good test cricket is - not that we had any doubts about it. But events in Mumbai, and specifically the groundsmen's decision (whoever told them to do so) to create a road just sees test cricket shooting itself in the foot. Yes, attendances for test cricket are low, and the money's in T20s and One Dayers. But every cricket administrator worth his salt knows that test cricket is the ultimate, and should be protected. For all of the talk of test championships and petitions over shortened test series, the real way to "save" test cricket is to stop the batsman dominated snooze-fests that are all too common in world cricket today.

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