July 13, 2010

Cricket's formats

Tweak Test rules to suit weaker teams

Aakash Chopra
Mushfiqur Rahim is aghast and Steven Finn embarrassed after a tame dismissal at midwicket, England v Bangladesh, 2nd npower Test, Old Trafford, June 6, 2010
Getting rid of meaningless matches may not be possible, for how would weaker teams improve otherwise?  © Getty Images
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How to keep the apparently outdated Test cricket in vogue is the big question everyone seems to be asking. While debates and discussions are gaining momentum, MCC has gone ahead and renovated the format for others to either follow suit or mull over. The only format to be played exclusively at day time might now be played under lights and with a pink ball. Obviously, the intent to save the oldest format of the sport is pretty evident.

But what is it that has led to taking such drastic steps to revamp the most classic format? Well, the first problem is the empty stadia and dropping TRPs and second is the lack of interest shown by the youngsters in the longest format.

The first proposal is to make it a day-night affair to cater to the prime-time television. Apparently it isn't only the viewers in the stadium who are missing but also the people who watch the action on telly that are giving it a miss. While cricket at prime-time might increase viewership, it won't be a bad idea to get to the root cause of dwindling interest. In my humble opinion people are staying away from Test cricket for a variety of reasons. First could be the meaningless matches (say Bangladesh v India). Regardless of the build-up, it would take some serious love for the game to watch the batsmen piling up runs against hapless bowling.

But it is not only the matches amongst the unequal which fail to ignite interest. Even the two top teams playing on a dead-flat track would face similar fate. The series Australia played against India in 2008-09 would be the prime example of not producing interesting cricket despite the best in the business locking horns.

Getting rid of meaningless matches may not be possible, for how would weaker teams improve otherwise? But at the same time I'm not sure if getting a royal beating by bigger teams every time is helping them either. Hence we may need to tweak the rules a bit to accommodate them till they reach a certain level. My suggestion is to put a cap on the number of overs a team can bat to 125 in the first innings and 100 overs each in the second dig. This might ensure that the stronger team won't run away with the game and the weaker team isn't out of it either. And it goes without saying; ICC must ensure that Test Cricket is not played on a road but on tracks which have something in it for everyone.

The second fold of the problem is that young cricketers don't seem to be interested in playing the longer format any more. They'd rather play in the lucrative T20 leagues than toiling hard for years to acquire the requisite skills to succeed in Test cricket. Let's face it. These youngsters have choices in front of them and you can't blame them for choosing the more profitable option. After all one can earn more money in 60 days of T20 cricket than what you'd get after playing for the country in Test cricket for 5 years. I think it's about time that we increase the financial reward substantially for playing Test cricket but also bring that in to public knowledge. Every Test hundred, a five-for and a win should attract monetary rewards. This might ensure that the Cheteshwar Pujaras and Rahul Dewans of the cricketing world won't sacrifice their technique and temperament to get on to the T20 bandwagon.

It may not be possible for not-so-rich cricket boards across the world but since India hosts the most lucrative T20 league, it can definitely do its bit to safeguard the interest of the oldest form of cricket.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Keywords: Administration, Future of cricket, Scheduling

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Posted by Sanjit on (August 20, 2010, 11:57 GMT)

Make the pitches more bowler friendly and increase the chances of having 20 wickets. One way to do that -- without changing the nature of the game -- is to make a rule that a test match pitch does not get any watering / cutting / rolling, 1 whole day before the match. This will effectively give us a 2nd day pitch on the first day -- while still retaining the varied character of the different venues.

Posted by Mitcher on (July 16, 2010, 21:58 GMT)

UUUgghhh... Appreciate the author is trying to think outside the box but this idea does is not agreeable to me in the slightest. Let the part time fans have their T20 rubbish but PLEASE don't ruin REAL cricket. And haven't we already changed the rules (ie. legalise chucking) to help at least one formerly uncompetitive side compete?

Posted by Danny Joyce on (July 16, 2010, 15:08 GMT)

It's test match cricket- there is no such thing as an unmeaningful match. It is the greatest honour of a player's career to represent their country in a test match regardless of whom and where they are playing. Leave it alone.

Posted by KT on (July 15, 2010, 16:07 GMT)

I think the best thing to do revitalize cricket for all formats is to have an artificial turf pitch which supports good pace, spin and is good for batting. Don't tell me that in the 21st century we cannot come up with a good pitch which would even out the game and reduce the gap between the test playing nations and others. It will also allow the younger cricketing nations to better prepare and be more competitive. If not test matches, atleast we can try that out in the T20's.

Posted by venkatachalam on (July 15, 2010, 7:43 GMT)

I will not agree with Akash in prescribing a limit on the number of overs in tests.But the real solution will be to have bowler friendly conditions(like the Lords' Test now going on between Australia and Pakistan-what a cracker it has been) and bouncier pitches which help both batsmen and bowlers.ALSO IT IS ABSOLUTELY MUST TO DOUBLE OR TREBLE THE PAY PACKETS(FROM PRESENT LEVELS OF REMUNERATION) FOR TEST MATCHES TO KEEP YOUNGSTERS INTERESTED IN THE CLASSICAL FORM OF THE GAME.

Posted by Timmy on (July 14, 2010, 3:17 GMT)

This is a really really bad idea. Test cricket is called test cricket because it is a test of willpower and skill. Let's not cheapen it by making it easier for the teams without those traits.

I like the idea of making the pitches more bowler friendly the world over.

Posted by Adam Frankowski on (July 14, 2010, 0:14 GMT)

Limiting the number of overs that a side can bat is a dreadful idea. It would completely change the nature of the game as it would no longer be necessary for bowlers to take wickets - all that they would have to do is contain the batsman and keep the scoring rate down.

So the role of the fielding side would change from an attacking one to a defensive one. We already have quite enough of that sort of cricket in ODIs.

This idea was tried in the English county championship from 1973 to 1980 and it was a complete disaster. English cricket didn't recover from it for many years.

Posted by Terry Jones of Australia on (July 13, 2010, 23:48 GMT)

This idea wont make matches closer, it will just decrease the number of overs that a team can bat and avoid the sensation of a close drawn out match.

What is needed is switching which team is batting each session. Change it from three 30 over sessions to two 25 and two 20 over sessions with each team batting 25 overs & 20 overs each day.

Additional rule that the team leading at the end of each session can decide who bats the next session (if the other team has batted for at least as many overs).

Also, failure to bowl required overs in time specified should result in extra runs for overs remaining (NOT continuation of play with meaningless fines).

Regarding test teams playing each other, there should be groups of 4 based on rankings with each group playing the group above & below them (& their group) with more matches per series required for their group then against others.

Friendly test matches against Associates (no effect on rankings) should replace state/county warm up matches.

Posted by TD_160 on (July 13, 2010, 22:57 GMT)

Automatic declarations after 125 and 100 overs in 1st and 2nd innings: Not a bad idea, if you ask me. It certainly would reduce the number of draws, particularly in the subcontinent, where the pitches are often very flat. The extremely conservative tactics of Indian and Sri Lankan captains, where they refuse to declare until they have ensured their side can't lose, has made for boring viewing at times. This might be just what is needed to sex up subcontinental Test cricket.

Posted by TestMatchLover on (July 13, 2010, 22:50 GMT)

Test cricket is innings without over limits, otherwise it is limited overs cricket.

I agree with the comments about the pitches.

Meaningless matches can be solved by having series of best-of-3 or best-of-5 matches. If one team has won enough matches to win the 3-test or 5-test series, don't play the remaining matches.

Mismatches can be solved by dividing Test teams into two groups of 5 based on rankings. If the opposing teams are from the same rankings group, they play best-of-5 series, otherwise they play best-of-3 series. Bang-Aus would be best-of-3 series, India-Aus would be best-of-5 series.

I agree about context for test matches by having a championship. I prefer an approach where any team that defeats the current champion is automatically the next champion. This provides more interest than a league style approach because any team could potentially become champion, not just the most consistent. Even Bangladesh might entertain hopes of beating Australia or India at home.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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