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July 29, 2010

Samir Chopra

Begging for mercy

Samir Chopra
Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina added 141 by stumps, Sri Lanka v India, 2nd Test, SSC, 3rd day, July 28, 2010
The carnage taking place at the SSC reminds us that spectators don't like fast scoring in Tests if it doesn't lead to a result  © AFP
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Sometimes, even the cricket-fan-in-exile can be spoiled for choice when it comes to live cricket. Today, I was presented with the opportunity to watch not one, but two Test matches: India v Sri Lanka and Pakistan v England. So what's an Indian fan like me to do? Watch Pakistan v England of course.

The reason for that goes back some thirty odd years to the late seventies. That's when I became aware that there were an awful lot of drawn games played in India (they were also the years that India played host to a couple of promising, but severely World Series Cricket-weakened teams). But nothing quite drilled that message home like the snorefest of the 1981-82 series against England. I don't think I'm alone in saying that something in me died that year.

Since then, the subcontinent has seen its share of exciting cricket but it's also provided some of the most pointless and turgid games in the history of the game. While it might seem that there have been more of these in recent times (I'm thinking in particular of the India-Pakistan series of 2005-06), I suspect the proportion of drawn games has remained roughly the same over the years. It's just that our collective patience has run out.

So this morning, there was little chance that I would tune in to the SSC Test. Why not watch a game instead where you could see the world's most promising fast bowler in action, in conditions that might help him? A game where there promised to be some movement toward a result? (As I write, my pick has been an inspired one - Mohammed Aamer has put in a beautiful spell for three wickets, and Mohammad Asif has bowled Kevin Pietersen with a peach).

Meanwhile, the carnage taking place at the SSC reminds us that spectators don't like fast scoring in Tests if it doesn't lead to a result. India and Sri Lanka have combined to score at some 328 runs per day. But it all feels a little flat, doesn't it?

No one, not us bloggers with too much time on our hands, or cricket fans the world over who vote with their feet, has tired of making the same point again and again: run-fests like the SSC one will kill Test cricket more surely than the IPL ever will. But there is little evidence that anyone is listening.

The most astonishing thing about the current state of affairs in Test cricket is that the world of cricket could have had it all. The way Test cricket had been played had changed for the better thanks to the influence of limited-overs cricket: the fielding was better; batsmen had a wider range of attacking strokes (and a slight concomitant loss of defensive technique); technology had aided in making more close-line decisions go the fielding side's way. The balance of the game had the potential to tilt, finally, just a little away from the batsman. Test cricket could, and would have, settled into a more result-oriented trajectory had the last piece in the puzzle been taken care of: the pitches.

But, no, the urge to self-destruct lies deep within Test cricket. And so we find ourselves at this pass. Where even a devoted fan of Test cricket cannot bother himself to check the highlights of a game. (I haven't done so for the SSC Test).

So, thank you, Aamer, Asif and Umar. And thank you gloomy English summer. It's brightened up this day of mine in a way that the glaring sun at the SSC hasn't been able to.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by RC on (August 1, 2010, 7:49 GMT)

@thongale: Feroz shah kotla borefests ok. But eden gardens???!!!

Posted by aHMED on (August 1, 2010, 3:18 GMT)

dead pitches, dead bowling attacks, mindless home boards and ICC and above all we superstar batsmen and captains who are racking up runs and making records selfishly without even trying for a result.. if all that was not enough to kill test cricket, we have stars like mahela jayawardane making statements that this kind of test is a challange, that this is better than a test that last 3 days because of lethal bowling, that a test pitch should be filled with runs so it can last all five days, that 400 runs in a day is a great achievement... and these guys are professionals... keep killing test cricket, so much so that a die hard fan will doubt his own sanity. I love test cricket but why should i invest my time for incompetant critket.. Draw can be interesting, a competitive contest, not these pathetic excuse of test matches.

Posted by preet on (July 31, 2010, 22:16 GMT)

all of you criticising the srilanka vs india match must note that the bowling strengths of both sides are really poor as compared to their batting strengths.

with respect to the pitch, it was dead in both matches in the first test, its just the ill fortune of the indian side that they were all out 60 runs before follow on th 4th day, if not sri lanka would have had to bat the whole day , and the match would have been a draw.

the same result would have occurred at the 2nd match if not for sachin getting india past the follow on. everyone should be praising sachin for bailing india out of a tough situation, down 0-1 in the series, and 3 wickets down and trailing by 460 runs and he bailed india out.

and @steve, about sachin bloating his average, what about ponting playing 6 test matches against england ,new zealand & windies every 2 years, is not 3 matches enough.

Posted by anil on (July 31, 2010, 17:43 GMT)

As much we can crib about (including me) the current drawn test @ssc, please donot take the site off the fact this has been the decade and a half of Bowling as well. Look around - A good bowler has to bowl in multiple formats of the game and fast bowlers are manging 500+ wickets in Test as well in ODI, Spin bowlers are managing 500, 600, 700 and 800 wickets. It was the same placid wicket in the test before where Murali-Malinga of Lanka took 20 wickets. What 's the fuss?

Posted by Nampally on (July 31, 2010, 15:53 GMT)

The SSC test match was painful to watch. The pitch had been tailor made for batsmen. The bowling was poor to average on both the sides. The batsmen who got out gave away their wickets either due to rash strokes, carelessness or tiredness under humid, hot weather.There was no battle between batsmen's skill and bowlers' guile.That is why the England Vs. Pakistan match was more appealing. Pakistan has 3 excellent fast bowlers but their batting is poor. England has above average bowling & average batting. So there was a keen battle.India should never send out a side with such poor bowling. If there are no bowlers develop them from school level onwards thru' coaching camps. Harbhajan, India's star bowlers was attrocious to put it mildly with 2 for 183.How can Dhoni say he is satisfied with his bowling? Are Indian standards so low? I would have gone in with Ashwin & M.Kathick in spin, Nehra, Mithun & Yadev in Pace + 6 batsmen.This combination may give India better chance of winning.

Posted by sunil on (July 31, 2010, 11:03 GMT)

@ali_a:Ha ha ha Look who is speaking.Pakistani wicket have been so dead that their ballers have to indulge in ball tampering incident.Those who lives in glass house should not throw stone at others.

Posted by ted on (July 31, 2010, 8:31 GMT)

BRavo could not agree more would tendulkar like to make for a result i am sure.no wonder murali retired after last match.solution if curatir makeroads instead of pitches make them timeless at least will get a result dont know about the bowlers shoulder thou

Posted by Mac on (July 31, 2010, 7:10 GMT)

Samir, not trying to defend that dead pitch, but here is an alternative viewpoint. What is a result-oriented pitch? Should we be preparing seaming or turning pitches in order to eliminate draws even when the bowling attacks are as poor and insipid as India and Sri Lanka's? Remember that a Test match is also a test of the bowlers. Would it have been fair if the tiddlywinks bowlers that India and Sri Lanka had in this game had taken 40 wickets in 4 days, despite their inaccuracy, inconsistency and complete lack of skill? Just like batsmen are expected to step up and concentrate on seaming or turning pitches, bowlers are also expected to try harder on batsmen-friendly wickets. I somehow doubt a game involving teams like Australia, Pakistan or South Africa with good bowling attacks would have been a draw on even this pitch.

Posted by Jim on (July 31, 2010, 2:09 GMT)

I fail to get why people complain. There should be some tests where one team scores 650 and the other team plays to score at least 450 to avoid follow-on. There should be some batting paradises too. Where else would you learn to bat patiently, without getting carried away? Do you learn that in a headingley pitch after asking Pakistan to bowl first? I don't think Raina or anyone else batting achievements are decreased in stature by the pitch, nor it is boring to watch, I'm a die-hard test fan and I enjoyed the game. If anyone says he's die hard fan, he must have enjoyed. Though I agree that every test should not be like this, it is bad to complain when it happens some times. In the first test, India failed to draw and in the second they made amends to the mistakes. This is interesting in a way & I love it. I can't wait to see who would bat first in third test & if SL bats again and scores 750 next time, I would happily see how Indians react to that. That's called Patience & Test Cricket

Posted by Afridi on (July 31, 2010, 1:32 GMT)

@Sriram: probably would score a 100 after Akmal has dropped him half a dozen times. India and SL both need to address this problem, Pakistan has always been unselfish with pitches, we made flat batting pitches even though our strength lay with our batting, see thats being a good host.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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