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June 14, 2012

Test cricket

The rest day: long gone, and not missed

Samir Chopra

As a cricket fan of long standing, I have had the chance to assess many changes in the game. Some, like the ubiquitous helmets, I regret, because of their visual impact on the game; some, like the passage into oblivion of the Test match rest day, I do not regret at all.

The rest day, normally staged between the third and fourth day's play in a Test, always felt like a cruel interruption of proceedings. The hours and minutes dragged on interminably; it was bad enough that I had to wait a whole sixteen hours for the next day's play to commence; and here I was, expected to wait a whole forty hours. I disliked this interruption with a passion, and wondered aloud -- for anyone that cared to listen -- about why the rest day was felt necessary. (As a youngster, when I learned that rest days in England were invariably Sundays, I speculated that Test cricketers went off to play a game of limited-overs county cricket.)

I have strenuously defended cricket's many breaks -- like lunch and tea, though the modern drinks break seems increasingly silly given the frequent appearance of the twelfth man -- but I doubt that I could have mounted a coherent defense of the rest day even back in its heyday. Somehow, it seemed unreasonable to me that cricketers needed to rest for a whole day after they had gone back to their hotels for a good night's sleep. A fast bowler that had turned in a marathon spell in hot weather? Perhaps. But everyone else? Surely they could hang in there for just another two days?

Back then, the rest day made the sports page disappointingly bland right in the middle of a Test. Rather than feature the latest scores and progression of a fascinatingly poised game, we had more match analysis and speculation, more endless crystal-ball gazing of the kind that continues to drive me nuts whenever television commentators indulge in it. And what if the rest day featured glorious sunshine and the fifth day bad weather, thus ensuring the game was a turgid draw? That was the sort of thing that could really cast a pall over ones mood. (I'm not sure if a Test match I paid attention to had ever suffered this cruel fate.)

I do not remember when the rest day was formally excised from Test cricket; my reaction then was of relief. We could finally get on with the business of moving a Test match toward conclusion. No more scoreless sports page; no more waiting and waiting for the day to hurry up and pass on so we could move on to the fourth day.

In the modern calendar, of course, a rest day would be an unimaginable luxury. This is the era of Tests staged without first-class games as warm up. But even without the pressures of a crammed cricketing calendar, getting rid of the rest day always made for good sense. If six days are to be set aside for a Test, then the sixth should be a backup, never a deliberately enforced break in play.

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

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Posted by Christopher Williams on (July 5, 2012, 22:48 GMT)

Can you imagined a rest day in a timeless Test match....?

Posted by Peter Finch on (June 20, 2012, 13:56 GMT)

Sport (pro) was not allowed to be played on the 'Lord's day'. That's why football was never played on a Sunday, although funnily enough Catholic Spain always played on a Sunday. At the beginning of the Sunday League didn't they have to 'charge' for a programme instead of an entrance fee as it was illegal?

Posted by Workshy on (June 20, 2012, 9:26 GMT)

Living in New Zealand I always liked the rest day because it could be used to make up the time lost to rain on the first 3 days!

Posted by Edwin on (June 19, 2012, 9:11 GMT)

I like the idea of having a 'rest day' and filling it with a T20 to improve the quality of the game generally. There's obviously too much cricket on these days - the quality has suffered as a result and as we have seen players are rested to keep them fresh.

I have also never understood why a ODI or T20 at a particular venue doesn't follow or preceed the Test at that venue - it would save a huge amount of unnecessary travel for the players, and reduce costs for the boards....but I guess that is common sense.

Posted by shakil on (June 18, 2012, 18:35 GMT)

Deepak Sholapurkar you may know me because you produce the same idea , which i am giving for some years now

Posted by Brajesh on (June 17, 2012, 17:58 GMT)

And then we wonder why modern fast bowlers are not aggressive anymore....Irony...

Posted by Moin Mohajir on (June 16, 2012, 15:05 GMT)

I think the origin of the rest day was one those silly decisions which human's take without thinking the whole matter through. When the 5 day test match of the beautiful game was initially concieved some smart alec must have proposed what everyone around the table, without a moment's pause for thought, must have applauded as a brilliant idea and it was adopted. Once it became part of the early test matches, a " tradition" was established, and it is a tradition of educated humans not to break traditions and so the roots of the "rest day" of a test match became stronger until the tradion gave way to "intelligence" and common sense prevailed and the rest day was declared a persona non-grata.

Posted by 2test90 on (June 16, 2012, 8:50 GMT)

I remember in Melbourne the 1988 Test vs WI and the 1994 Ashes Test started on Christmas Eve (a Saturday)- so you had the ridiculous situation of a rest day after just one day !!! Thankfully, XMas Eve was again a Saturday last year, but the Test started on the proper Boxing Day

Posted by sk12 on (June 15, 2012, 21:51 GMT)

Purely as a viewer, no one would miss the rest day. But for sure the quality of cricket has reduced after the rest day has gone. Teams are not keen anymore to enforce the follow-on so as not to over-work their fast bowlers. Number of draws has increased I feel.

Posted by Steve on (June 15, 2012, 2:51 GMT)

the quality of cricket took a dive when they abolished the rest day,even if they played every day of the year batsmen would still score runs and bowlers would still take wickets,but the quality would be rubbish,even domestic matches before about 1950 had rest days,the concept of first class cricket used to be that the players were at peak performance,now they just have to keep playing to please the tv audience

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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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