Trent Bridge Test not an ideal advert for Test cricket
14 Jul 2014, 1811 hrs IST, Feroz Khan, gocricket.com
For Virat Kohli, England ranks among his top four countries along with Australia, South Africa and New Zealand where he wants to succeed with the bat. The reason is quite obvious - these places offer tough conditions that test the skills of a batsman. Unlike subcontinent tracks which are more conducive to batting, the pitches in these countries are more bowling friendly. So for someone who has honed his craft in a favourable environment i.e. on batting friendly conditions, it is a chance to make a statement. However, Trent Bridge, venue of the first Test of the 2014 Investec series between England and India, dished out a feather bed that left the visiting captain MS Dhoni wishing to play in more 'English conditions'.
Just what are English conditions? Overcast sky, moisture in air, rain and above all pitches assisting seam bowling. The latest Trent Bridge track was the antithesis of what traditionally English pitches are known to offer. The first Test of the condensed five-match series between England and India that ended on Sunday resulted in a dull draw raised many questions. A total of 1344 runs were scored at the cost of 19 wickets across five days. While the figures seem innocuous, the devil, however, lies in the detail. Seamers from both the sides had to plod all five days in search of wickets.
James Anderson bowled a total of 59 overs for four wickets, Ishant Sharma toiled for 38 overs for his three wickets and Stuart Broad sent down 51 overs for four scalps. If your leading bowlers have to bowl over 50 overs in the very first Test of a gruelling five-match series, the chances of them getting unfit midway are high. Also, three tailenders went on to score half-centuries apiece. That the match, on two different occasions, gave each side a whiff of victory was thanks largely to some irresponsible batting and inspired bowling efforts.
This leaves us with the question - Why would anyone be interested in witnessing a game that is destined to produce no result? While it's true that even drawn Tests sometime can be engrossing affairs but the fact is that these are rare occurrences. Not every Test is going to leave spectators in the stand and viewers at home on the edge of their seats. For that matter, not even those that produce a result will all be epic encounters. However, the possibility of a result is any day a better prospect than a dingy draw.
To attract new fans in order to make cricket a more global sport, the governing authorities are aggressively promoting its shortest format. But when we are continuously fed the notion that Test cricket is the Holy Grail and then we witness such encounters (read Trent Bridge Test), it sends a wrong message. How are you going to pitch it to the fans that they should pay and sit for close to eight hours daily (for five days!) to watch a game that has a high chance of meandering into a meaningless draw? Certainly not the right recipe if you want to save the future of Test cricket.
The concept of tours is to provide teams a chance to test their mettle in alien conditions. If Nottingham Test is a precedent of what awaits India, then they can say goodbye to that for sure. England are certainly robbing their bowlers of the 'home advantage'. Just think of a scenario - If England toured India, will they find a track that assists their pace bowlers? Spin is India's strength and they will obviously produce wickets assisting the spinners. England don't even have a specialist spinner in their ranks (although they have recalled Simon Kerrigan for the second Test), what is then the logic behind a slow wicket?
If reports are to be believed then the counties, who face a stiff competition for hosting Tests, are being forced to produce wickets that allow for a Test to continue for five days so as to earn revenue though gate receipts. However, this is a dangerous ploy. Its long-term effect will be nothing but negative as the spectators will shy away from wasting their time on a match destined for a draw.
If the cost of hosting a Test is so high, why can't the England cricket board provide incentives to those counties who produce sporting tracks? In fact, this should be a template that ideally should be followed by every cricket board. The contests may end early but the prospect of equal battle between bat and ball has a high potential to attract more eyeballs. And considering the fact that England belong to the club 'Big Three', they have a responsibility to set an example and a good one at that.
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