Cricket's formats July 13, 2010

Tweak Test rules to suit weaker teams

How to keep the apparently outdated Test cricket in vogue is the big question everyone seems to be asking
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How to keep the apparently outdated Test cricket in vogue is the big question everyone seems to be asking.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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Pradeep Bharadwaj on July 13, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    Instead of tweaking the rules, it is always better to make only the established cricketing nations to play Test cricket and allow minnows to play only ODI's and T20's. That way Test Cricket will be in the safe hands and also there will be more value for the runs scored by the batsmen and wickets taken by the bowlers. There will be no criticism like Murali's record against weaker teams, which is no where his fault. Also, we should go back to older ways of uncovered pitches with time frame to make the pitch bit more responsive to the bowlers. Any game which makes additional favors to one particular department cannot survive. A game needs closer contests to rise curiosity among the viewers. Though this might looks like against the weaker teams, but they should first develop their domestic structure and they should be made to play against the title winners of the Domestic structure of Established teams in a five day contest and see how they have developed.

  • Joaquim on July 13, 2010, 17:18 GMT

    I like the idea of an overs limit but I think it is workable in the first innings only - and perhaps a limit of 150 overs maximum.

    For example, Bangladesh get sent in to bat and get bowled out for 150. Australia then score 550 in their 125 overs. Does that mean Bangladesh then have only 100 overs to overturn a deficit of 400 and then some more to have a hope to compete?

    If it were a first innings only limit of say 150 overs, at least that way it would give the teams hope to battle to win or save the test in their second innings.

  • Greg M on July 13, 2010, 12:10 GMT

    I'm not convinced changes are needed, but it seems the context provided by a "Test World Cup" would be the best way to prevent meaningless matches and to generate the rankings necessary to avoid mismatches via a tiered system (with promotion/relegation etc). I reject outright the idea of avoiding mismatches by making games more of a lottery - skill must out.

    Hopefully the obstacle for a TWC (which should be long-running, home and away etc, not single-site quadrennial like ODIs) is the likelihood of draws, and I could accept that being fixed by awarding victory (or better still just partial points) to the team with the higher run-rate. Sadly I fear the obstacle might be the boards' refusal to schedule for the benefit of the game, not just the aim of filling their coffers.

  • sri on July 13, 2010, 11:27 GMT

    nice suggestions 1ce again.it's low trp rates since v go to schools,colleges & office n can't afford to cut them for 5 consecutive days n even if it's played in the nite none wld turn up in stadium as none wld watch the longer format sacrificing sleep. so,i think test matches shld b conducted as multi-national series involving 3 or 4 countries so that it'd bcum little more interesting.such tournaments shld b conducted esp. during vacation times[april to july] this might save tests acc. to me as i hv analysed n discussed with my frnds n relatives abt y they don't watch tests live.

  • Omar on July 13, 2010, 8:50 GMT

    "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 most important point gets one sentence. Forget gimmicks and don't worry about what young players are thinking (has anyone actually asked these 'youngsters' what they want, or is it just general perception?), if you enforce tough penalties for flat tracks we weed out test matches that have more days than wickets, and as a result have better matches. This is the best solution by some distance.

  • Santhana Krishnan on July 13, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    I have been following your blog very eagerly and let me say this. This is not your best one for sure. That 125 over cap idea.What a great suggestion!! Let us consider this. India vs England in Headingley. India survived the worst time to bat and scored 600 odd in about 190 overs. By your suggestion they would have scored about 320 in 125 overs and given England the chance to bat during the best time after doing all the hard work. Just make the pitches bowler friendly. Everything will be fine.

  • Abhishek Kishore on July 13, 2010, 6:09 GMT

    Really bad idea to make any adjustments for weak teams. They want to play top teams to get better. You can't have your cake and eat it too. If you're getting a chance to compete with the big boys, you've to show your worth.

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  • Abhishek Kishore on July 13, 2010, 6:09 GMT

    Really bad idea to make any adjustments for weak teams. They want to play top teams to get better. You can't have your cake and eat it too. If you're getting a chance to compete with the big boys, you've to show your worth.

  • Santhana Krishnan on July 13, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    I have been following your blog very eagerly and let me say this. This is not your best one for sure. That 125 over cap idea.What a great suggestion!! Let us consider this. India vs England in Headingley. India survived the worst time to bat and scored 600 odd in about 190 overs. By your suggestion they would have scored about 320 in 125 overs and given England the chance to bat during the best time after doing all the hard work. Just make the pitches bowler friendly. Everything will be fine.

  • Omar on July 13, 2010, 8:50 GMT

    "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 most important point gets one sentence. Forget gimmicks and don't worry about what young players are thinking (has anyone actually asked these 'youngsters' what they want, or is it just general perception?), if you enforce tough penalties for flat tracks we weed out test matches that have more days than wickets, and as a result have better matches. This is the best solution by some distance.

  • sri on July 13, 2010, 11:27 GMT

    nice suggestions 1ce again.it's low trp rates since v go to schools,colleges & office n can't afford to cut them for 5 consecutive days n even if it's played in the nite none wld turn up in stadium as none wld watch the longer format sacrificing sleep. so,i think test matches shld b conducted as multi-national series involving 3 or 4 countries so that it'd bcum little more interesting.such tournaments shld b conducted esp. during vacation times[april to july] this might save tests acc. to me as i hv analysed n discussed with my frnds n relatives abt y they don't watch tests live.

  • Greg M on July 13, 2010, 12:10 GMT

    I'm not convinced changes are needed, but it seems the context provided by a "Test World Cup" would be the best way to prevent meaningless matches and to generate the rankings necessary to avoid mismatches via a tiered system (with promotion/relegation etc). I reject outright the idea of avoiding mismatches by making games more of a lottery - skill must out.

    Hopefully the obstacle for a TWC (which should be long-running, home and away etc, not single-site quadrennial like ODIs) is the likelihood of draws, and I could accept that being fixed by awarding victory (or better still just partial points) to the team with the higher run-rate. Sadly I fear the obstacle might be the boards' refusal to schedule for the benefit of the game, not just the aim of filling their coffers.

  • Joaquim on July 13, 2010, 17:18 GMT

    I like the idea of an overs limit but I think it is workable in the first innings only - and perhaps a limit of 150 overs maximum.

    For example, Bangladesh get sent in to bat and get bowled out for 150. Australia then score 550 in their 125 overs. Does that mean Bangladesh then have only 100 overs to overturn a deficit of 400 and then some more to have a hope to compete?

    If it were a first innings only limit of say 150 overs, at least that way it would give the teams hope to battle to win or save the test in their second innings.

  • Pradeep Bharadwaj on July 13, 2010, 18:48 GMT

    Instead of tweaking the rules, it is always better to make only the established cricketing nations to play Test cricket and allow minnows to play only ODI's and T20's. That way Test Cricket will be in the safe hands and also there will be more value for the runs scored by the batsmen and wickets taken by the bowlers. There will be no criticism like Murali's record against weaker teams, which is no where his fault. Also, we should go back to older ways of uncovered pitches with time frame to make the pitch bit more responsive to the bowlers. Any game which makes additional favors to one particular department cannot survive. A game needs closer contests to rise curiosity among the viewers. Though this might looks like against the weaker teams, but they should first develop their domestic structure and they should be made to play against the title winners of the Domestic structure of Established teams in a five day contest and see how they have developed.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.