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Cricket is one of the few sports on earth that relies heavily on a non-humanoid living organism to shape the outcome of the game. The main playing area is actually alive. Every Test match is dictated to by a plant life form that bleeds. Cricket is part sci-fi and part gramnivore.
This is something that should never be forgotten, especially when you’re in some drunken conversation where someone calls cricket boring. “Oh, is your favourite sporting endeavour played on a Monocotyledon surface that evolves independently as the game progresses?”
When the pitch is like this it makes captains use weird field placements. Using three slips and a gully as a form of attack is largely useless on pitches like this. Both captains have had to improvise. Ever since Andrew Strauss had two short midwickets I’ve been waiting for either captain to use three, or even four. The ultimate Graham Gooch field. It’s not happened, but other odd fields have.
Sri Lanka had three slips and a gully at one stage, but they were spread out so far from each other they couldn’t hold a polite conversation. It was about as close to regulation as they tried.
The most mental fielding position had to be the short silly backward point off the Sri Lanka spinners. It’s the position you put the guy in the team everyone hates, and then just sit back and wait for the spinner to drop marginally short so the fielder could be pinned.
But in both Tests I’ve enjoyed Sri Lanka’s 7-2 field for the spinners. Watching Trott refuse to take any risk other than a reverse sweep against Randiv at Galle was probably my highlight of that Test. It wasn’t pretty, but it was hard, and both sides had to hold their nerves.
7-2 and 8-1 fields cop a bit of flack as a defensive tactic, and they can be. They are also what is best about Test Cricket. A captain who will improvise, a bowler who is bowling to an absurd plan and a batsmen who is trying not to do something stupid. It’s proper sport. All of this while short leg, dual short midwickets and a leg slip wait for a mistake and three sweepers dance to the music of the band.
These kinds of fields force batsmen to improvise, take chances, be bold, or hold their breath until it’s over.
KP decided to dust off the switch hit. This angered Dilshan.
There are some who think the switch hit is against the spirit of the game. There are others who believe 7-2 fields are against the spirit of the game. If you look hard enough, someone probably thinks the toss is against the spirit of the game.
I’m not so worried about the spirit of the game, or whether it exists at all. I just like it when cricket bends itself to adapt to different situations.
Cricket is not like a banana; it has not been perfectly created to fit into your hand. Due to the tactics, surface and structure of the game it’s in continual evolution. It can’t be stopped by players or officials. Cricket just changes. Some of these changes are bad, some good and some odd. This Test will not be like the next Test, nor the one after, nor the IPL. Even with switch hits.
Most sports don’t mutate as fast or often as cricket. Most sports aren’t played on a constantly mutating living surface.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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