Review: An apology of a Test match

Updated: 15 April 2008 12:16 IST

In these changing times, you want Test cricket to do well. But in Chennai, Test cricket looked like a big-bottomed country cousin of the slim, sexy T20.

New Delhi:

These are interesting times in world cricket.

There's a power shift happening at the ICC. The new leaders, some with Indian identities, would soon be responsible for the good health of cricket's most revered variety - Test match.

The slimmer, sexier version - Twenty20 - will allow the ICC to put cricket in little cans and ship it to all corners of the world. Good. It provides a diversion from the predictabilities of fifty-over cricket while spreading the game far and wide.

Still, Test cricket is the hardest level of this sport. Only truly great players excel here, hence one desperately wants this variety to do well. In these changing times, one searches for signs that things will be alright for Test cricket.

But when you see games like the Chennai Test, you wonder if cricket administrators are up to any good.

In five full days, India and South Africa could take only 25 wickets between them. It was an apology of a game - it made Test cricket look like a big-bottomed, sluggish country cousin of the slim and attractive T20.

No excuse, not even Sehwag's once-in-a-lifetime triple, would suffice as to why bowlers on both sides were stripped of all dignity and paraded on a pitch as helpful as a raincoat in summer, in weather conditions as pleasant as a root canal.

A purist would want to see Test runs being earned at a premium and not in help-yourself buffets. He would love to see the batsman smash the fast bowler through cover, but he would want the fast bowler to retaliate bravely, pitching up the ball again, tempting the edge to slip.

Where was the balance, the meaningfulness in this game? When India play next in Durban, would they be asked to bat on a dead wicket or a fast, green one? And hasn't it been India's traditional duty to give turning pitches to world cricket? Forget turning wickets, where are the 'sporting' ones the BCCI had talked about?

Chennai gave bowlers no credit. A surprise, since it has seen some of the best contests between bat and ball - ever. It was here on a turner in 1998 that Sachin Tendulkar challenged Shane Warne and won. In 1999, Tendulkar stood grimly on a dustbowl, blunting Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain for hours before losing narrowly.

Or Kapil Dev's brave 119 against the West Indies in the 1988 Test, in which debutant leggie Narendra Hirwani took 16 wickets. And who can forget India's two-wicket win in 2001, when Steve Waugh's mighty Australia were brought to their knees? These are terrific examples of balanced games - moments we remember Test cricket by.

It takes only one decent hundred to set up a game. But in this case, it took six good hundreds (counting Sehwag's as three) to kill it.

The next two matches - at Ahmedabad and Kanpur - promise to go the same way. The pitches there have remained true to batsmen. The weather won't be better, with temperatures touching 40 degrees. Both sides would do exceedingly well now to win 1-0.

In the coming years, we would see many changes in world cricket, T20 bringing in most of them. IS Bindra would hold a key position in the ICC. As the head of Punjab Cricket Association, he would know much about sporting wickets - Mohali remains one of the best wickets in India.

One hopes he propagates the concept of balanced cricket. Else, it would be the end of Test cricket as we know it.

Topics : Cricket Sachin Tendulkar MS Dhoni
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