By Gulraj Bedi:
Test match cricket is in a spot of bother and we need to bring it out of troubled waters, but before we do that, we need to accept the fact that test cricket does not suit the modern day generation.
Well, I’m a traditionalist who loves the longest format of the game. The reason I love it is that test matches challenge each and every aspect of a player’s technique and character. But, there’s another side to it. As a spectator, I would certainly not go out with my family to watch a long day of test match cricket. A night out at a Twenty20 encounter is where I would perhaps go with my family.
I guess, all of us or at least a majority of us have had the ‘privilege’ of watching an IPL encounter, haven’t we? There are fours and sixes, music blaring out, cheerleaders, big crowds and a lot of other things to keep you entertained. The twenty-over format is basically built around the idea of having a gala time with friends and family.
Frankly speaking, the product itself is not what it used to be. There are 3 or 4 decent teams (the likes of India, Australia, England and Pakistan). The remaining teams are fairly average and in most cases declining further.
Test cricket has barely changed over the years. It has no context. The International Cricket Council’s failure to organise a world Test Championship has forced the popularity of test cricket to decline further.
A team like The West Indies is, undoubtedly, a poor opposition in tests. So, why can’t we make two separate divisions containing six teams each. Keep two to three top-notch teams in each group and get the associate members like Ireland and Afghanistan to play test match cricket. They deserve a chance. Relegate the West Indies to division two if they aren’t performing well.
Teams like India and Pakistan, who’ve been raised on the spin friendly wickets perform well in home conditions, but the desperation to win at home has seen these teams, especially India, produce some poor pitches. I completely understand the fact that the coaches as well as the players are under tremendous pressure to win and that the teams playing at the international level need to learn the art and technique of playing in all types of conditions, but the condition of the pitch during the recently concluded test at Kanpur against New Zealand was just not good enough.
The Indians are currently hosting the Kiwis for a three-match test series which will be followed by a five-match Test series against England. Then there’s a test match against Bangladesh as well followed by the Border-Gavaskar trophy consisting of four Test matches. Now, that sums up to 65 days of test match cricket. How will you sell 65 days of test match cricket to a generation that seems to be overwhelmed by the entire idea of Twenty-20?
People have so many other calls on their time. So, we must try and speed-up the pace of test cricket. I really liked the idea of having a day-night test match. The first ever day-night test match played between Australia and New Zealand attracted a crowd of close to 1,23,000 spectators. I also like this idea of having 4-day test matches with 95 overs to be bowled each day. If the players are too slow to bowl them, turn on the floodlights and make them stay there. I’m pretty sure the teams would speed-up the over rates if the ICC actually punished the captains for dawdling.
Why not have colored clothing in test matches as well with the names and the jersey numbers of players printed at the back? Cricket pundits would certainly not like this idea, but would they turn away from the game? I doubt it. We need to be innovative in order to attract new fans.
Overall, I don’t think the game of cricket has a problem with the crowds if you take all three formats as well as the domestic competitions into consideration. There are plenty of people watching cricket.
It is just test match cricket that needs a bit of innovative thinking to make it more appealing to the modern era.