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India-Afghanistan Test gets over in less than 2 days: Why are we digging Test cricket’s grave?

16 Jun 2018 CricTracker

India & Afghanistan. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Before beginning, let’s dwell into these stats from the one-off Test played between India and Afghanistan at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Thursday and Friday. India’s openers – Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan – scored a century apiece in the game. While Vijay hit 105 off 153 balls, Dhawan slammed 107 off just 96 balls.

On the other hand, Afghanistan could muster 212 runs in their two innings (109 all out and 103 all out) in 400 balls, losing the five-day match inside two days by an innings and 262 runs. It is a good thing that Indian’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane called the entire Afghanistan side to pose with the trophy. But putting the sporting spirit of the winning captain, it was a disaster for Test cricket.

Australia reportedly scrapped series with Bangladesh

In May, Cricket Australia was accused of making no communication with the Bangladesh Cricket Board before scrapping a two-Test and three-one-day-international series which was due to be held in August this year allegedly on grounds that it would be commercially non-viable.

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Australia have played Bangladesh in only three Test series since the latter’s debut in the longest format of the game in 2000 against India. Of them, only once have the Kangaroos have hosted Bangladesh at home (in 2003) while the other two series were held in Bangladesh. In the 2006 series, Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie slammed an unbeaten double ton against Bangladesh while batting as a night-watchman.

4-day Test played between SA and Zimbabwe, yet the result was no different

In December 2017, Zimbabwe were made to play a four-day away Test against South Africa as a new experiment in cricket to make it more viable in the age of the super-short but yet, the Zimbabweans were annihilated within two days by an innings and 120 runs. Former South African cricket board executive Haroon Lorgat backed the idea of four-day Test and it was understandable from officials to take such position to accommodate more games to raise the revenues. But cricket can’t allow itself to be dominated only by purposes that make it cost-effective. It also requires measures that make it viable, merit-wise.

In 2001, Sri Lankan batsmen were ‘tired’ of Bangladesh’s hopeless bowling

In September 2001, two prime Sri Lankan batsmen – Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardena retired from the game after scoring 201 and 150 runs, respectively, against Bangladesh in a match in the Asia Test Championship in Colombo, thanks to the visitors’ insipid bowling.

Bangladesh, who were less than a year-old at that time, have played 106 Tests since November 2000, winning just 10 and losing 80 and drawing 16 – registering an appalling success rate of 9.43 per cent. Five of their 10 Test wins have come against a hapless Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, have played 105 Tests since 1992 but do nothing much better than their Asian counterparts. They have won just 11 of these 105 games and lost 67 before and after their self-imposed exile with a success rate of 10.47 per cent. Six of their 11 victories have come against Bangladesh.

The low-rung teams have made Test cricket a farce

Each of these instances shows the pathetic state of affairs in Test cricket which requires an urgent redressal. And the only way forward to do so is to introduce a tier system in Tests to save the game from further decline and decay.

The state of Test cricket is so poor now that even a two-tier system might not be sufficient to save it. Ireland still put up some show against Pakistan in their debut Test recently despite facing a follow on (it was 150 in that match after the first day got washed out) which showed the gap between the two side was less than that between India and Afghanistan (India did not even play some of its top players, including Virat Kohli and Bhuvneshwar Kumar).

Test cricket needs at least three tiers today

It thus warrants a minimum of three tiers – the top tier including the top four; a second tier including the next three and a low tier featuring the rest five that include the hapless minnows.

There can be systems of promotion and relegation as is followed in football and tennis which can only make it competitive. It is true that with only 12 teams, the tier system will make the games far too repetitive but that’s the only way the quality of the Test match can be immunised from compromise.

But quantity is more important than quality in today’s times

The international cricket monitors are, unfortunately, walking in the opposite direction by allowing more and more quantity instead of emphasising on quality. One guesses that it is the same scenario across the world (48 teams to participate in Fifa World Cup of 2026) today but Test cricket is in such a need of preservation at the roots today that cosmetic changes in the form of day-night game or four-day matches are not going to help its survival.

The problem with new teams like Afghanistan is that they are being made to feed on the excitement part of the game so much at the very onset that they might not ever find it suitable to grow as a Test side through the wears and tears that it offers.

The case of Rashid Khan

A Rashid Khan’s heroics in ODIs, Twenty20s and IPLs have created such an aura around him that when he takes the red ball to deliver in a Test match; the expectations touch the sky about a definite winning performance coming in the longest format as well. But that is not the case when you prepare for an entirely different ball game. Players today are bred in a culture of sensational limited-over cricket where the scope of finding the shortcomings in one’s game and address it is very narrow and temporary.

In Test (that is why it is called Test), the short-term planning and preparation as well the execution don’t work. Khan, who has the record of the fastest 100 wickets in the ODIs and second joint-fastest 50 wickets in T20s and also earned a lot of reputation in this year’s IPL, gave away 154 runs in 209 deliveries in the Bengaluru Test, getting just 2 wickets in exchange.

He thus became the holder of the record of the most expensive bowler in the debut Test. The other sensational Afghan bowler, the 21st century born Mujeeb ur Rahman gave 75 runs in his 15 overs and took 1 wicket. Clearly, these bowlers transition from the limited to the longest formats is yet to take place comprehensively.

This transition will not come by playing with big teams straightaway even if it seems so in theory. But one guesses that the star values of today’s cricket are so limited to a few teams that officials fear the risk of seeing a commercial debacle and hence opt for a safe bet than thinking about Test cricket’s future. But in doing so, they are making Test cricket’s future unsafe. This is a paradox and there seems to be no getting rid from it at the moment.


The post India-Afghanistan Test gets over in less than 2 days: Why are we digging Test cricket’s grave? appeared first on CricTracker.

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