Test Cricket: The Corridor of Uncertainity

It looks as if the mother has been kicked out by her surrogates,with the inordinate money power being the driving force. Test Cricket,is considered as the game of attrition,the pinnacle of cricketing culture where success is revered for ages.The purists regard test cricket, a codified and cultivated form of the game, as the ultimate test of “courage and conviction”.But,the form is being threatened into oblivion by its own progenies-ODI’s and T20’s.Business houses,media firms even the apex body of cricket, ICC, are gunning for the shorter formats,purely due to the easy money it provides. But is is worse than that,the sentiment against test cricket is getting stronger day by day.Many sense that the end is near.Cricket commentators,officials and viewers are already preparing obituaries.

Test cricket is the longest form of the game.It is seen as a test of strength,competency and ability in the sport for both the players and the teams alike.The first ever international test match,played between Canada and USA in 1844,was a two day affair.But the first,official test match was played between England and Austrailia in 1877,at the Melbourne Cricket Ground(MCC),which Aussies won by 45 runs.The format has undergone several sweeping changes since then.Now,the game is played among 8 nations which have been conferred “Test playing nation” status.The top teams including India,South Africa,Australia compete for the numero uno spot in the format.Currently,India ended the year as World No.1,ending Oz’s dominance over the title.The five-day format has seen many greats play the game,drawing sighs of admiration from the viewers.Legends like Don Bradman,Viv Richards,Sunil Gavaskar,Brian Lara,Sachin Tendulkar have produced some of the most scintillating innings,the game has ever seen,in test cricket.

The landscape of cricket is changing rapidly.The introduction of ODI cricket,contested by many, brought big revenue into the game. Many argued that the longer format would be forgotten.But it never happened,they co-existed,careful not to poach in each other’s territories.Test cricket stood for excellence,ODI for entertainment and business.Even as ODI’s gained popularity,test cricket firmly stood its ground.It is the latest innovation by our cricket bosses that is the cause of the worry regarding the future of test cricket.Twenty-twenty cricket,or T20 has become the archetype of a high TRP grosser.The inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007 changed the face of cricket.People loved to see the batsmen virtually butcher the bowlers for a barrage of fours and sixes .The 3-hour extravaganza suited the people,who could catch the action in the evening,after returning from work.The addition of cheerleaders and fireworks only added to the glory of the spectacle.Suddenly every corporate house wanted a piece of the cake.Sponsors,eager to put their money into the new found craze,started investing heavily.Literally,cricket is ceasing to be a sport.It has become serious business.

Over the years,test cricket has represented the pinnacle for a cricketer’s prowess and ability.The format boasts of the most memorable moments of cricket.Who can forget Lara’s 400 n.o against England?And the epic knock of 281 by VVS Laxman against the Aussies at the Eden Garden,in 2001?The recent exploits of the all explosive Virendar Sehwag has left the world gasping for breath.His recent knock of 293 against Sri Lanka stands as one of the best innings in the history of cricket.He also has two triple centuries to his credit,one each against SA and arch rivals Pakistan.Contemporary cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar,Ricky Ponting,Graeme Smith,Mohammed Yousuf have had great success in this format,which stands up to their billing.

The Ashes,played every two years between England and Australia remains one of the most popular tournaments in cricket.Its sacred to the players from both the countries,and its an honour for them to be selected in the national team.The Australia-India series known as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has drawn huge crowds.The recent series played in Australia was a huge hit,with Australia beating india 2-1.Even though the series was marred with controversies,it produced some great cricketing action.Many other series,like, South Africa vs Australia,South Africa vs New Zealand have proved to be quite entertaining ones.

Recently,The International Council of Cricket(ICC)Cricket Committee(CC) and the MCC World Cricket Committee(WCC) had a meeting,in which they agreed that test cricket should remain as the pinnacle of the sport.The two powerhouses of cricket also decided to implement strategies to raise the interest in this format of the game.Discussions are underway regarding a Test Championship,to be held every four years,amongst the top four test playing nations.The proposal has met strong opposition from BCCI,apparently fearing loss in its revenue.The concept of day-night test matches has been doing rounds,of late.As interesting as it sounds,the trials have already started in Australia and New Zealand.A pink ball is to be used in such matches,instead of the red kookaburra balls.Whether it would be pull crowds to the stadiums or not,is the big question.

The idea of a test championship seems impractical,given the busy schedule of the Future Tours Programme(FTP).  However it seems a good idea, and would go a long way in deciding the fate of tests.With a little support from its affiliate boards,ICC can implement the idea. Also the use of technology like Hawk eye, Slow motion cameras, Snickometer, Hot Spot will raise the cool quotient of the format.With the Decision Referral System already in place,technology will not only enhance the viewership experience but also prove to be a big crowd puller.Innovative ideas must be encouraged by the cricket boards to pull test cricket back from the brink of extinction.

The introduction of Indian Premier League(IPL) and Champions League T20 threatens to throw test cricket out of fashion.Even though the cricket-crazy people run after the instant gratification provided T20,test cricket is the ultimate recognition of supreme talent.Anyone who excels in test cricket is recognized as a mature and talented sportsperson.Each format of cricket poses its own challenges to the cricketers,but we need to preserve the longest format.

Cricket is passing through its own corridor of uncertainity.This may be the most defining moment in the history of cricket. Test cricket has to co-exist along with the other formats of the game.But it can’t be forced down the throat of the people. Innovating the game will go a long way in preserving this format. ICC has to act fast and, now. Hope, ICC is listening to this.

Manas Ranjan

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