December 6, 2009

How to save the game from global warming

Find a ball that will allow day-night matches, make a few compromises, and we could have Tests over three seven-hour days

It was interesting and enlightening to see the concerns fans had over my idea of three-day Tests. Interesting in that fans didn't want to tamper with Test cricket, and enlightening because there's so much concern for the future of the five-day game. Considering there still appears to be a lot of love for the longer game and India are currently on a mission to claim the No. 1 Test ranking for the first time, this might be the appropriate moment to propose a plan to revamp Test cricket.

Look upon this as cricket's global-warming challenge. It may mean the next generation is paying for past excesses, but if we don't act quickly there might be nothing left to save.

The No. 1-ranked side would be best decided by playing a World Test championship among the eight major nations. This needs to be achieved in the minimum of time, hence a series of three-day Tests.

The secret is to produce a ball that will facilitate day-night Tests. If the right ball becomes available (and it appears to be closer) then you can play three seven-hour days. If the administrators and players agree to some compromises then an over rate of 16 an hour is feasible. If this were achieved, the championship games would amount to about the same number of balls bowled as in four days of a modern Test.

The compromises would include full-sized sightboards with no advertising on them, no television replays to decide boundaries, a back-foot no-ball law to virtually eradicate overstepping, ball boys beyond the ropes, and strictly controlling the number and duration of unofficial drinks breaks on the field. In return the players would agree to bowl 16 overs an hour, and if a team falls behind the rate the captain is suspended from the next championship game.

The pebble in the shoe is the newly instituted Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS), which will further slow the game. Maybe in the championship matches the UDRS could be refined and only be activated when the third umpire overrules an absolute howler.

This would be a viable tournament to crown a world Test champion rather than a team claiming No. 1 ranking on a computer. It might also prove to be a street sign for Test cricket's road ahead.

The three-day concept has merit because matches could be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This makes back-to-back Tests more realistic with the players having ample rest between matches, contested on fan-friendly days of the week. The long-weekend concept would appeal to television because not only are these popular sporting days, it also means play is virtually guaranteed on all days, with a possible exciting climax on the Sunday.

The three-day concept has merit because matches could be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This makes back-to-back Tests more realistic with the players having ample rest between matches, contested on fan-friendly days of the week

For this style of Test championship to have any chance of success, certain aspects of the tournament are crucial. The prize money and the points system must be pitched to substantially reward outright victory. The pitches must provide a reasonable balance between bat and ball, and games must be played where and when the chances of rain are negligible.

Administrators could also consider eradicating not-outs so that batsmen don't place too much emphasis on their averages. This attitude could be further boosted by keeping the championship statistics separate from those of traditional Test matches.

Increasing the number of rest days between games might also encourage more genuine fast bowling, and it doesn't hurt that a good portion of the cricket would be played in the cool of the evening.

Condensing the game might produce more tactical challenges as captains search for quicker ways to obtain a result. It would also favour the more aggressive selection panels. Nowadays, with so much competition from other sports and even within cricket, the longer game needs to give fans a reason to go to the ground rather than making them get up and leave.

This could become a fast-moving championship, favouring teams like India, who have the ultra-aggressive Virender Sehwag leading the charge, and Australia, with a wicket-taking fast bowler in Mitchell Johnson. The intensity of these battles would be heightened by pitches that encourage results.

For Test cricket to survive it needs to hit a happy balance between what satisfies the players and what excites the fans. An interesting concept, and who knows it may also prove to be enlightening.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dilip on December 8, 2009, 23:27 GMT

    Even 2 days game could become more Interesting. Think of having 2 consecutive days of 100 each. Each team to have 2 innings of 50 overs. There could be some flexibility provided. Like if team wants to stretch any of the innings to something like 60 to 65 overs. The other innings automatically auttomatically gets reduced by those many overs. In case team gets out before 50 overs in the first innings, additional overs could be used in subsequent one. Also take restriction of maximum overs for the bowlers. Bowler in form could bowl even half of the total. Put only restriction that 5 bowlers should bowl minimum of 2 overs. That will bring lot of excitement, big scorings, big wicket hauls etc. like in test cricket.

  • Shekhar on December 8, 2009, 21:11 GMT

    As much as am tired of living in an era where everything needs to change on a weekly basis and that too radically, I don't see any harm in Ian's suggestion. Make no mistake, I am a purist, and can watch test match between Bangladesh and NZL with more enthusiasm than any of the T20 circus. However, I see the need to change, not because the 5 day version has any holes in it, but purely because I want to see more test cricket be played regularly between the top nations on the weekends.

    And if that means 3 day test, or day and night test, or pink ball test, or any which way to make it logistically possible and financially sustainable - I will vote for it. Test matches played on sporting pitches end in 4 days often. So if we can add an hour everyday, and push for 16 overs an hour, play under lights that can support some seam and spin, allow for bowler substitutes - we can achieve the results.

  • Subhajit on December 8, 2009, 18:58 GMT

    Very intresting and probably the only way to survival of test cricket in India, and hence in the cricket fraternity. But somehow makes me think even the likes of Ian Chappel is influenced by the glamor and twinkles of Twenty20. Pink ball, no moisture in the pitch on the first day-first hour, no 5th day spinning track, no white shirt, and more importantly, almost never we will see a match when a side is battling to save a match in the fourth innings, set to bat for 5 sessions. When all around the world pitches are becoming batsmn friendly, it might be eutopian to think of a pitch which assists both bowlers and batsmen in a three day match. To me, if it's gonna be a three day match, either make the pitch fast and bouncy or a turner like one at Kanpur in 2008 (against SA). Flat pitch will be a waste and once in 50 test matches you would see something like a balanced pitch, simply because it's not easy to prepare.

    Overall, I would be sad to see a five day game going away.

  • nitin on December 8, 2009, 17:54 GMT

    There is still a lot of support for test cricket from fans and cricketers themselves (not much support from boards though). People may not watch all five days of the game but still follow it and enjoy it. Its one day cricket that needs changing and by that i mean just get rid of it completely and replace with 20/20. Most one day games are one sided and no body has whole day to sit around and watch it. We can proper cricket in tests for purists (like me) and can have 20/20 for its excitement to bring in new fans and money offcourse.

  • Alex on December 8, 2009, 14:57 GMT

    Also BCCI will never do on anything on their own. We need people like Ian chappell to bring out ideas and evolve. BCCI more interested in status quo concept until all the resources used up.

    I think Time for Test Season like NFL through out the year with some gaps for IPL and other 20/20 leagues same time. It can even overlap. like middle of ipl we can have tests played by Team in INDIA in several cities to bring in more money as all players are already in IPL.

    There are many many ideas i have...:)

  • Gerald on December 8, 2009, 14:57 GMT

    Leave it at 5 days. Reducing it in anyway removes some of the skill, determination and guts needed to win consistently. Stop pronouncing the doom of cricket. So sick of hearing this over and over.

  • Alex on December 8, 2009, 14:53 GMT


    The quarter finals , semifinals has to be on neutral ground except finals. Final will be awarded to different countries to promote world wide audience like super bowl.

    I like 5 day Test , do not want to change it. Only thing is by making a Test league , it makes people to go for a win and avoid tame draws.

    Also UDRS stays but with field umpire review his own decision on pocket video player and remove the extra cost of having third umpire. Benson issue will never arise as he is the only one who over rule his own decision if he get better evidence. I like pocket player idea.

    Games are played on same week , same days across all countries. Kinda like NFL sundays. Marque match up of top ranked may be moved out week later. Like india -pak , AUS - Eng , AUS-SA , SA- IN , PAK-AUS , PAK -SA ... like monday night football.

    24 players per team selected for the year including injury replacement....

    ..more to come..

  • Alex on December 8, 2009, 14:43 GMT

    Ok instead of discounting Ian chappell ideas , i put forward my ideas.

    1.Tets championship.

    We need a concept of season. In that all top 8 teams play Test in round robin fashion start from january to october. Then semifinals and final test in november and december.

    They need to scrap the future tours programme and bring in this round robin test through out the year. Every team has to play each one once. May be Add quarterfinals if we need more test to be played.

    2. Test changes

    a) New ball every 40 overs available. b) 3 bouncers per over. Let batsman sweat little more. That is fun and interesting. c) No third umpires and make on field umpire more responsible by making them carry Pocket video player that shows the multiple angels in rotation so umpires can see it close what happened and he can overrule his own decision. And he need to report his review why he overuled or not. We need to know logic behind the decision. d) Award 3 points for win and 1 point for draw

  • Arvind on December 8, 2009, 12:11 GMT

    @ IPLFan "limiting the number of wickets doesn't necessarily eliminate the all-rounders." Oh my God! A little application of Mathematics and some common sense would tell you that if 6 players batted and 5 players bowled, and some players did both, then in the team of 11, there would be some players who NEITHER BAT NOR BOWL. Now. I am afraid somebody is going to come up with an "idea" that cricket should be played by teams of 8 players.

  • Terry on December 8, 2009, 10:09 GMT

    DRAWS in test cricket occur mostly by teams having to bat too before declaring. THE SOLUTION is to make Test Cricket session by session, instead of innings by innings. FOUR SESSIONS per day over 4 days (448 overs total) where each team spends Half day batting and Half day bowling (with 20 wickets per side). If 16 sessions are completed then match is a draw.

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