ESPNcricinfo for Cricket Summit August 19, 2013

Test matches are cricket's 'life source' - Dravid

ESPNcricinfo staff

Rahul Dravid has made a spirited call for nurturing first-class and Test cricket, saying the longer and more traditional formats provide players with the grounding needed to prosper in the newer, shorter versions. The steps Dravid suggested for bolstering Tests included a more serious consideration of day-night Tests, increasing pay for long-form specialists, a streamlined and regularised cricket calendar, and providing more context to matches through competitions like the Test championship.

Perhaps the most radical idea Dravid proposed was for the less successful countries to find a way to involve some of their teams in the first-class structures of more robust cricketing nations, such as a Bangladesh side participating in the Indian domestic season.

Dravid was speaking at the ESPNcricinfo for Cricket event held in London on Monday, part of a series of events held to celebrate the website's 20th anniversary.

While highlighting the primacy of Tests, he acknowledged the benefits provided by Twenty20s, not just financially but with the innovations in cricket it has spurred. Dravid urged people to think beyond pat metaphors like "fast food v fine dining" when comparing the two formats, and, putting forth a more nuanced explanation of the difference between them, said he believed they could exist alongside each other.

"Test cricket, an older, larger entity is the trunk of a tree and the shorter game - be it T20 or ODIs - is its branches, its offshoots," he said. "Now to be fair, it is the branches that carry the fruit, earn the benefits of the larger garden in which they stand and so catch the eye. The trunk, though, is the old, massive, larger thing which took a very long time to reach height and bulk. But it is actually a life source: chip away at the trunk or cut it down and the branches will fall off, the fruit will dry up."

Dravid elaborated that the sustained examination cricketers faced in the longer version helped them, especially youngsters, better understand their basic game. "The fundamental core of every cricketer's game is enriched by playing four- and five-day cricket," he said. "By using those well-trained powers of adaptability, discipline, resilience and focus as a T20 cricketer, you will have double the advantage than the player possessed only of talent and timing.

"The skill of learning how to think clearly under pressure is required in T20, but it is built through having to endure pressure for a session, two sessions, an entire day, a series of spells."

Most of the biggest stars today honed their game over years of first-class cricket, but with the ever-increasing focus on T20, Dravid sounded a note of caution for the future. "We are, I believe, maybe one generation away from reaching the point where our entire youth structures could cater only to T20 without any emphasis on the longer form of the game. By not giving young players a chance to explore their versatility, endurance or even improvisational skills, we will be selling ourselves and our sport well short."

"We are, I believe, maybe one generation away from reaching the point where our entire youth structures could cater only to T20 without any emphasis on the longer form of the game. By not giving young players a chance to explore their versatility, endurance or even improvisational skills, we will be selling ourselves and our sport well short."

He then elaborated on measures to prop up the long form. "If that means reworking how first-class and Test players can be out on more lucrative contracts, let's get the accountants on this," he said. "If it means playing day-night cricket, we must give it a try, keep an open mind. The game's traditions aren't under threat if we play Test cricket under lights. I know there have been concerns about the durability of the pink ball, but I have had some experience of it having played for the MCC, and it seemed to hold up okay."

A regularised itinerary was another of Dravid's ideas. "We can start by sorting out the scheduling around Test cricket, to ensure that teams can complete their home-and-away cycles against each other over a four-year period. This will mean balancing and creating context for all the three formats." He argued that the Ashes didn't lose its lustre over the years partly because of its fixed place in the calendar, allowing a sense of anticipation to build up.

"If we can answer that question - what's this for? - with something other than the words 'television rights' we will have done well." One way to address the lack of context, he felt, was to have marquee tournaments like the Test championship and the Champions Trophy.

The most important step was to shore up first-class structures, especially in the smaller cricketing countries. "Bangladesh is a good example of a country with a great passion for the game and they don't lack in talent. But they are still struggling to find their feet, literally and figuratively, in Test cricket because of the lack of a strong first-class structure," he said. "Test cricket is not the place to start trying to learn new skills."

He argued that more established nations should help out the less-resourced countries, by integrating overseas teams in their domestic competitions, suggesting pairs of "India for Bangladesh, South Africa for Zimbabwe, England for West Indies, Australia for New Zealand." The way ahead was to put aside short-term profit and work collaboratively, he contended, since "we are a very small community and we can't afford to lose the members of our family".

Click here to read the full text of the speech

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on April 19, 2014, 11:09 GMT

    Who cares about test cricket. It is a waste of time and effort. It does not suit for the modern world.

  • Bludging on August 22, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    Test match cricket sells out in Australia and England. It is what the people who watch cricket and play cricket take seriously. Can anyone even remember who won the international 20/20 or ODI games last summer in Australia? Of course not! The shorter forms of cricket are a novelty, only time will tell if they stay the course.

    Given the alarming drop in attendances for 20/20 cricket in Australia the question begs whether this format will still be with us in 5 years? Can anyone remember a close 20/20 game. They are all lopsided encounters. You seldom get a close game.

  • Vish on August 21, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    RESULTS ARE THE KEY The rise of T20 is not just about the short duration, entertainment value, etc. its also about the fact that these games produce results. Why stop only at pink balls? Why not go even further? A way to maintain different forms of the game would be to mesh Test cricket with 50 over games into a 4 day format that produces an end result. So for example, each team could play a first innings comprising 135 overs each (so 270 overs over 3 days) & the last day would be 50 overs each. If either team fails to last the 135 overs, they would be permitted to add this to their second innings 50 overs but the team that lasts the 135 overs would get runs added on to its first innings total equal to the number of overs the other team falls short multiplied by their innings run rate. However the team that falls to last the 135 overs still gets to add on those overs to their 50 over second innings.At the end of 4 days there will be a result not a draw!

  • jayaesh on August 21, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    We as cricket fans have to realise realise cricket is a minority sport compared to truly global sport like Football and we can't afford to be divided among ourselves on basis of our likes and dislikes of a particular format.Football fans can afford to have views like i don't like English premiership or i don't like La Liga or Bundesliga or Italian Serie A .... because football is a global behemoth , day cricket reaches that level we can perhaps then afford to say stuff like i like/hate this format , but not now..

    I know this is not an appropriate forum but i will offer best wishes to Atletico Madrid for there match against Barcelona tonight ...

  • Dummy4 on August 21, 2013, 9:54 GMT

    @palavadisuresh- what are u talking about. cook averages almost 40 in ODI's and steyn averages a a solid 29. So they are still good ODI players. So u are using 2 very poor examples compared to hundreds that aced ODI's but struggled Tests. There has been a lot of talks from commentators about doing well in ODI's but struggling in tests - yuvi and raina or obvious ones.

  • Dummy4 on August 21, 2013, 8:57 GMT

    T20 is only for the few batsmen playing from 1 to 4. Do you guys think that its fun to face 6 balls and you have to practice and put in all the effort and sacrifices. I think players would rather stop playing the game if they must bat at 6 in a T20 match. Dead is the game and real cricket skills. For some fans T20 is perhaps the Alpha and Omega but for the true cricket fan test, ODI and T20 is good. It give all types of players the opportunity and in some cases 1 player play all 3 formats.

  • Richard on August 21, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    @Capitalist:-Your forum name is nothing if not approporiate for one who states that "T20 is the future of cricket like it or not". You plainly love the idea of money, but the richest things in my life can't be bought. Cricket is being overrun by creatures like yourself who want the game to be something it was never meant to be. Rather than ruin cricket for people who like it the way it always was why doesn't T20 stop pretending to be cricket and call itself something like 'Funhit', or 'Whackball' or "Rock-n-hit". With the hullaballoo around IPL atm we could always call it "Gamefix" or "Shameball", so save us from your cold predictions please. All that glitters is not gold, and never was this more true than with T20.

  • suresh kumar on August 21, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    @capitalist. Well said. T20 is best way to popularise cricket.

  • Marky on August 21, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    This is rubbish, it's like saying only 5000 metres is the real track and Field and the 100 metre dash is rubbish. Each has it's own skill sets. If you bury your heads in the sand and only play test cricket, cricket is doomed. T20 is the future of cricket like it or not.