During one of his battles with the administration, Andrew Symonds put forward the possibility of retiring from Test cricket and just concentrating on playing T20 cricket in the IPL, to which Modi rightfully let it be known that Symonds had to keep playing Test cricket in order to be eligible for IPL. However since then Symonds, whether it be through design or through unhappy circumstance has effectively finished his international cricket career leaving him to do what he wanted to do—-play in IPL. Recently Chris Gayle kept playing IPL till the last minute before joining the Test squad and then talked about moving away from Test cricket in favor of T20s, a stance from which he subsequently backed down. And now Flintoff declares he wants to retire from Test cricket to concentrate on ODI and T20s, interestingly in the season following him being bought for top dollar.
There is a reason I mention these three names.
And that is none of them are from the subcontinent.
Yet when the “first world” press and those who write for the “first world” present the “crisis of Test cricket” they present it as being caused by India, its inordinate money power and of course IPL. However they conveniently forget that it is the “first world” players who are the ones who want to jettison Test cricket for the frivolous forms of the game while a few of whom who make a big show of putting country before IPL do so because they are miffed at their selling price or because they realize they arent automatic selections in the IPL squads.
Which brings us to the “crisis of Test cricket”. In the last few days, the geniuses at the ICC have sounded the death knell. Test cricket could die out. Solutions to it have been proposed . They range from the interesting, like a World Championship for Tests, to the disastrous, like making Test cricket four days, to the downright surreal, like making the cricket ball fluorescent pink, whose effect on the popularity of cricket, besides inducing Bobby Darling to watch it, I cannot imagine.
Of course all this is based on a fundamental assumption. That being that Test cricket is facing a crisis and something radical needs to be done.
As a long-time cricket fan, I can say I find that assumption thoroughly bogus.
There is no crisis.
In the mid 80s, there was. On dead lifeless pitches, sides struggled to complete an innings each. Ravi Shastri batted for five days and the Eden crowd entertained themselves by trying to hit the policemen on their helmets with fruit seeds. Batsman after batsmen played to just score runs but not to get a result.
But things changed from late 1990s. Test cricket, between the top sides, became enormously exciting with results the norm rather than the exception. Titanic series have taken place since then and virtually all memorable cricket matches I have seen in the last ten years have been Tests.
I used the word “between the top sides” intentionally. Boring, game-killing series have taken place but invariably where the other side has been Bangladesh or Zimbabwe like the 2007 India’s tour of Bangladesh. If there is any crisis in Test cricket, it is the continuing perpetuation of Bangladesh as a Test playing nation (since Zimbabwe has gone into exile), purely due to politics. Its not that Bangladesh cannot play interesting cricket, the recent series against a second string West Indies is proof positive that absorbing Test cricket can involve Bangladesh. It just needs another team at their level. This is why we need a two-tier Test playing system and this is what the ICC should be looking at instead of pink balls, in my humble opinion.
So why is ICC so worried about Test cricket? Gate receipts. What they do not understand is that yes Test cricket will never be able to match ODIs and T20 in their revenue generation. That is precisely why we ought to have these bastardized versions of the game—so that the real thing may be subsidized.
It is not even that cricket administrators are facing a cash crunch so that they are forced to capitalize on everything in their bag.
Far from it.
For the true cricket lover, Test cricket in the 2000s have been the finest it has ever been with epic performances, attractive cricket and drama in the finest traditions of the sport, as opposed to flying skirts and the “watch the white ball fly” joys of T20. So why tamper with something that is working so well in a major way and totally destroy the history, the tradition and everything that makes Test cricket what it is?
Why? Oh why?
Which ignoramus would expect a classical music concert to compete with a big ticket pop artist when it comes to filling up a stadium? Which ignoramus would expect Ravi Shankar to smash his sitar after the end of the concert or expect a Carnatic music exponent to get people headbanging? Which ignoramus would ask a Bharatnatyam dancer to show more leg in order to compete with an item song program?
Wait. I know. The ICC. They would just ask the legendary Pandit Bhimshen Joshi to have laser lighting and backup dancers so that he would sell out Wembley and be as “successful” as Himesh.