January 6, 2010

Michael Jeh

Why Test cricket isn't dead

Michael Jeh

I write this post hastily; Pakistan delicately poised at 101 for 5, chasing 176 for what is an impossible, inevitable, guaranteed, 50-50, uncertain, comprehensive win. It is a measure of the quality of the Test match and the SCG surface that any of these adjectives can be used to describe this wonderful contest. In fact, by the time I finish writing this brief post, any of the earlier words might be redundant. That’s the sort of game it’s been.

What’s best about Test cricket played on this sort of pitch between two relatively evenly matched teams is that it has provided a platform for every type of cricketer to be villain and hero. When was the last time we had a game that created a stage for cricket’s entire cast to play the lead role at different times during a single game?

There we go … as I speak, Kamran Akmal has sewn up the role of Chief Villain in this performance. For a brief moment there, I was wondering if the sheer romance of this gripping, see-saw encounter would have seen him claim ultimate redemption by leading Pakistan’s fragile tail to a glorious victory. Such were the depths of despair he plumbed when dropping those four chances that it was almost tailor-made for the Hollywood script with poor old Kamran smiting a six to win the game by one wicket in the lengthening Sydney shadows.

Brad Haddin may already know what that feels like. Having played a dreadful shot in the first innings and a careless flick across the line to Danish Kaneria in the second, his shot at redemption came when Salman Butt glanced one down leg side. Whatever transpires in the next hour or so, his place amongst the “greatest wicketkeeper-catches by an Australian” is assured. Alas, not so for Akmal Snr.

Younger brother Umar, a breathtaking talent if ever there was one, still has the winning of the game in his hands, having started off in inglorious fashion by spilling a regulation chance in the second over of the match. Who would have thought the future of the game would still be in his grasp? When he launched that stunning assault on Nathan Hauritz in the first innings, it would have taken a brave man to predict these two would still control the destiny of the match two days later. And so it has come to pass …

This game has offered everything. Fast bowlers, legspinners, offspinners, great catches, straightforward drops, good umpiring, lots of overturned decisions, edges that have gone unnoticed, brilliant captaincy at times from both skippers and some very ordinary tactics too. Amazingly, Ricky Ponting, much-vilified for choosing to bat first, may still have the last laugh if his bowlers can make best use of bowling last on this fourth-day pitch which is still doing enough, yet without any real demons.

It may well come down to which team can conquer their demons in the next few minutes. Surely there’s another twist left in this game. I’ll sign off on this post with Pakistan edging closer at 120 for 6 and the game still in the balance. Test cricket dead? Not bloody likely!

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by dr dipstick on (January 11, 2010, 23:36 GMT)

The constant bickering over whether test cricket is dead, and that T20 is the future of the game is really starting to annoy me...and it seems many others. Test cricket represents the foundation of the sport; the reason the game exists, and has a 133 year tradition. T20 has no tradition, and is merely the latest attempt to market the game in other markets..think ODI's 30 years ago... a lot of people predicted the death of tests then... now ODI's are under scrutiny. So please, lets put things in perspective. Both (all) formats have a following, so why must one of them die for the other to succeed? How many other sports have a distinctly separate audience? How lucky are we? If they say diversity is the spice of life, then cricket's the only sport that achieves this. I'm a cricket fan, I love the drama and pathos only a test can bring, but I also enjoy the hit and giggle stuff too... looks to me they're both here to stay...

Posted by faisal on (January 11, 2010, 17:10 GMT)

i think test cricket is dead becoz its too long these days its not possible to watch 5 continues day coz life is so busy (exception ex cricketers and old peoples) when test cricket started (1877) it was good to watch 5 long day in the ground its not going to die coz its boring and not exiting. i think icc should take step and abanded test coz you can't watch the whole game for 5 days. One day cricket is the futures test cricket

Posted by KK on (January 9, 2010, 23:23 GMT)

At the moment the Pakistan team seems lacking in moral strength. Not surprising given the recent negatives they seem to have been embroiled in like tossing the one-day series match to keep India from getting into the finals, ball tampering etc. If they play the game with true sportsmanship their true talents will really make them a force to reckon with. Right now I think they of doubtful Test standard.

Posted by kaushik on (January 9, 2010, 5:05 GMT)

Why kamran is accused or why he is projected as 'villian'?It was on day 3 he missed out chances but Pakistan didnot lose the the match on that day.

Posted by John M on (January 8, 2010, 9:34 GMT)

Sorry guys, but I have to side with Mahek here. T20 fills the stands. Tests don't. Test matches are like the curate's egg - good in parts. It is a rare test match that is exciting for the entire match. We live in an age where instant gratification is the standard. Traditional test cricket by its very nature does not provide that.

Posted by Rahul Bose on (January 7, 2010, 23:15 GMT)

To me this test showed why Test cricket will soon be dead. No doubt it was a gripping contest, but it exposed the lack of quality in the Pakistan team. How many quality test teams are around these days (Aus, SA, Ind, Eng, Srl at home). That is a few less than what I remember in the 90s, plus where are the legendary new ball attacks that were so common. I don't see a Walsh and Ambrose combo anywhere. And the new batting talents are like Akmal, straight out of T20 cricket, with ability to bat exactly 20 overs.

Posted by Ramesh on (January 7, 2010, 19:25 GMT)

I watched this game from day one to the end and always taught and was confident that australia would do something out of the ordinary to win this game. Any team in the test cricket arena who has self belief that they can win they will win ninety nine times out of a hundred. This was no captaincy act it was just belief, good fielding and super catching, and remember catches win matches. I am from Brian Lara country Trinidad living in America and always supported Australia because they play a different brand of cricket. Tell me which country in the world has more close and exciting matches than Australia, they will always feature in the most memorable games because they just don't know how to throw in the towel. throw in the towel is not a sentence in their vocabulary, that is why I loves watching them I loves good test match cricket. I remember this statement by Tony Cozier cricket is a game of glorious uncertainities and misfortunes. That's what makes test cricket so unique.

Posted by Syed Nayyar Uddin Ahmad on (January 7, 2010, 18:12 GMT)

H'able Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Sir, I know your favorite game is not cricket, rather it is Polo. However, majority of this nation loves the game of cricket to the extent of madness. Shaheed Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, like Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was also an ardent follower of the game of cricket.

Pakistanis understand cricket and its intricacies very well. And they never mind losing against a team which plays better. But, an abject surrender, always casts a spell of gloom over the entire nation, as if, we have lost a war against an arch enemy.

Today the entire nation is virtually stunned to see that our team was bowled out in the 2nd innings in just 38 over's of a test match.

The surrender, at Sydney cricket test by Pakistan team can be aptly explained in one sentence i.e. our cricket team has snatched defeat, from the jaws of victory.

Many cricketing experts will now be dwelling upon the reasons of this collective Hara-kiri. However, it is high time that certain heads must roll, for sheer incompetency in their respective fields. Otherwise also, accountability is the buzzword, nowadays.

Under the circumstances, Your Honour, may consider the following proposals on urgent basis, to salvage whatever is left in the Australian tour.

1.Immediately, sack the entire top management of the PCB, and appoint a world class business professional (e.g. Messers Asad Omar or Razzaq Dawood) to head and run the organization, with clear cut objectives to promote the Pakistani test, one day and T20 XI's as No.1 world teams, in three years time.

2. Sack the entire selection committee and appoint Dr. Muhammad Ali Shah, as chairman of the selectors, with Mr. Amir Suhail, Mr. Zaheer Abbas and Mr. Rashid Latif as member selectors.

3. Replace Mr. Intekhab Alam with Mr. Javed Miandad as coach.

4.Immediately, replace Mr. Muhammad Yousaf with Mr. Shahid Afridi (already present in Australia) as captain.

5. Immediately, replace Mr. Kamran Akmal with Mr. Sarfaraz as wicket keeper.

Sir, the entire nation is looking towards you in this hour of despondency, for a surgical action, to revive the lost hope of your terror ridden fellow countrymen.

I am absolutely sure that, your timely actions to stem the rot of the PCB, will further enhance your image and prestige in the eyes of 170 million Pakistanis.

Warm regards,

Syed Nayyar Uddin Ahmad

Posted by Mahek on (January 7, 2010, 16:37 GMT)

And how about the trampolines at the WACA, Chris? Should the Asians call pitches like those doctored to suit the home team? We don't spit on those pitches the way the Aussies do when they can't chase a sub-150 target on a turner.

Posted by Chris on (January 7, 2010, 12:14 GMT)

CricFan, the difference is that the pitch wasn't prepared to favour either side. If anything, it favoured Pakistan, due to their seam attack.

Preparing a spinning pitch because you know that that's the only way you can beat opposition, which some countries have done in the past, is a slightly different matter. Still not wrong, but slightly underhanded.

Nonetheless, when you go to a place like India, you expect to play on doctored spinning pitches. It's a bit of a surprise when you find one in England because they've figured it's their best chance of a win.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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