The recent test matches between India vs West Indies and South Africa vs Australia have got me thinking that what is really an ideal pitch and what is really the problem with test matches? Is it a pitch that favors the batsmen, is it the pitch that favors the bowlers or simply an even pitch favoring both. Most will go with the third option and I would too but that’s not what the reality is. The reality is, the cricket has been caught with a serious fever called “t20 cricket” which is absolutely disgusting. It’s fine that ICC is looking forward to this new format but this doesn’t mean that they should forget about the oldest format of this game i.e. test cricket.
Players say that test cricket is the best form of cricket and it must not end soon, it should go on for at least another 100 years, I completely agree but does ICC agree too? What ICC is doing is, playing with this format. I’ve heard some ridiculous ideas recently about changing test cricket and if I am to be very blunt here, I haven’t liked any of the ideas at all. Is test cricket really same as before? Is ICC doing enough to save this “precious” format? These are the million dollar questions, they indeed are.
Ideas given by Sachin and various other players to improve ODI cricket is still understandable. It’s a limited over format and what they are suggesting is, make each team bat twice which means making them play 25 overs at once and then the next team plays their first 25 overs. I like this idea but as far as test cricket is concern, we cannot play with the overs. Just changing this 5 day format to a 4 day format or lesser won’t work! According to me, in test cricket what we need to have is, good pitches, even pitches (favoring both bat and ball), favoring both batsmen and bowlers. In this way, test cricket will get more interesting to see, from fan’s perspective.
Take example of the recent test match between South Africa and Australia (1st test), who would have got bored watching this test match? Not me sir, no – not me. I watched most of the test match and I didn’t get bored at all. I’m a young cricket fan and what I still want is, interesting test matches and I’m sure few other young members of this site will be fan of test cricket too. I’d admit that I like t20 cricket as well but test cricket is just something special.
Let’s go back a few years. Go back to the era when West Indies bowlers and Australian bowlers were a delight to watch i.e. 1970’s and 1980’s. At that time, watching bowlers bowl was never boring. In fact, that was a time when people used to go to the stadiums to watch bowlers like Holding, Marshall, Lillee, Thomson and several other bowlers bowl. I have obviously not witnessed them bowl in their times but I’ve watched quite a few video clips (thanks to Rob, you must take a look at his channel on Youtube, worth a look). It would be fair to say, that making runs against those bowlers took some making.
I’ve seen people arguing in India, those who watched Gavaskar play, that Gavaskar is still the best and Tendulkar not. Why is that so? Because people in India, who watched Gavaskar play against those big West Indian fast bowlers without wearing any helmet or being protected to the best, like nowadays, was something very special. Just imagine how Gavaskar would have went to the pitch, knowing that the West Indies bowlers or even the Australia bowlers (like Thomson and Lille and others) will be aiming to either injure him with their lethal bowling or simply get him out. In this mind set, Gavaskar went to the pitch and not only protected himself from getting injured but made 34 great centuries. This is simply something that is done by legends and just legends. Not taking anything away from Tendulkar, I’m one of his biggest fans but I’m just pointing out that how hard it was to make runs in 1970’s and 1980’s.
It isn’t like it’s very easy to make runs nowadays but I’m sure we all would agree that nowadays there aren’t enough fast bowlers when compared to fast bowlers of 1970’s and 1980’s and the pitches, are just being made to favor the batsmen and bowlers are suffering due to this.
In the last 5 years, how many occasions have there been where a pitch has been prepared to support both batsmen and bowlers? Not many occasions, surely. Do the bowlers ever complain when they are being smashed all around the ground, even though they are putting their best of the efforts to bowl the batsmen out but the pitch doesn’t support. Just imagine how good a bowler’s temperament needs to be these days to take wickets.
In which country do we enjoy watching cricket the most? For me, it’s undoubtedly England. The reason is simple; in England the pitches are supportive for both – batsmen and bowlers. Sub continent pitches can obviously not be prepared like England pitches but what sub continent curators can do is – make sure that they leave some grass on the pitch and make sure that the bounce is good which will make sure that the bowlers too get some purchase from the pitch. Preparing a dry pitch supporting just batsmen is going to do no good to this purest form of the game.
Have we ever heard a fast bowler saying that “I enjoy bowling in sub continent”. Sounds funny doesn’t it? It obviously will sound funny because the pitches prepared in sub continent are just for batsmen and not for bowlers. What can bowlers really do? In limited overs format, a bowler somehow manages to take some wickets, batsmen try to be aggressive play their shots (in limited overs that is) and bowlers get benefited from this as they have a chance of taking wickets but in test matches, batsmen look to take their time and look to play big innings. In test matches, bowlers need to take 20 wickets in a match to win the match for their team but how can they take 20 wickets when the pitch isn’t supportive? Curators in sub continent need to understand this and once they do, we will witness good test matches being played in sub continent.
It isn’t boring to watch matches in Australia and New Zealand, that’s because the pitches provide good bounce for the bowlers and this helps the bowlers. In South Africa, as we saw in the first test between South Africa and Australia or even in the second test, the pitches can be very supportive for the bowlers and as I mentioned earlier, in England the pitches are excellent for bowlers. In West Indies, the pitches can be very flat at times but there is good amount of bounce on offer and some swing as well at times. Basically, the whole point is, the pitches are the only way test matches can be improved. Doing changes to the format, will do no good! What does rest of you think? I feel this is a topic on which there could be an interesting debate taking place. Test cricket, as we all will agree, is the purest form of cricket and there needs to be a step taken to make it popular among the fans, again.
This is my first article. I have done my best to write all the necessary stuff and I hope the article will interest you all, the topic too. Suggestions are welcomed.