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Ian Chappell

It's not the toss, silly

The way to ensure your team is competitive in Test cricket is to have players who have the technique and ability to succeed in all conditions

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
One of the most important tasks for cricket administrators - which they've failed dismally at - is to maintain a reasonably even balance between bat and ball.
With a third format of the game now flourishing there's another equally important task at hand. Administrators need to achieve a reasonable balance between long- and short- form cricket in order to enable players with the desire to develop the range of skills required to perform adequately in all three formats.
This point became clear following Faf du Plessis' hollow cry for the toss to be scrapped in Test cricket. His plea would have had more credibility if it hadn't followed South Africa's abysmal twin collapses for 126 and 73 in Sri Lanka. If you bat poorly, having first choice of innings won't make any difference.
Scrapping the toss is not the answer to thwart the underhand practice of pitches being specially prepared to suit the home team. Any captain making such a complaint should consider that the best way to ensure fair pitches is to choose a well-balanced attack and select batsmen with the technique and ability to succeed in all conditions.
However, if the modern player isn't afforded sufficient opportunity to hone his skills at first-class level then it becomes difficult to succeed in the variety of conditions experienced at Test level.
Successful players like Virat Kohli and Joe Root developed in an era where they still played enough longer-form cricket to hone a complete set of skills. The question is, with the proliferation of T20 leagues, will the next generation of players be afforded those same opportunities at first-class level?
If there aren't sufficient opportunities for the next generation then they'll have to choose between developing skills purely for the long or short forms of the game. This would be a dereliction of duty by the administrators because all kids with an ambition to play international cricket should at least have the choice of experiencing the thrill of the game's ultimate test.
If opportunities for young cricketers are restricted and they have to make a choice, the likelihood is a higher percentage will choose the shorter, more lucrative, path. This will result in a dilution of Test match skills and the decline of that form of the game, resulting in its eventual demise.
Without opportunities for players to develop a full range of skills, cricket loses some of the artistry and guile that makes the Test match such an enticing contest when played well. As captain of Australia I made the point that players had a duty to leave the game at least as strong as it was when they started competing at the highest level.
This is an obvious conclusion. The reason most of us harboured the ambition to play at the highest level was that our imagination had been fuelled as kids by a player or players we admired. The next generation of players were entitled to be similarly inspired by us. The current generation of up-and-coming players should expect to be similarly inspired and it's up to the administrators to ensure their choices aren't limited.
On reaching the international level, players shouldn't be confronted by doctored pitches. Those who seek such an advantage can't have much faith in their own players if that is what they believe is required to win. I have always believed the preparation of pitches should be left solely in the hands of the head groundsman and everybody else should keep their nose out of it. If a pitch is substandard then the person responsible should be warned that if it happens again the venue will lose international rights for a period of time.
No matter which way the coin falls at the toss, if a team plays good cricket it has a chance to win. More often than not it isn't the toss that causes a team to lose a Test but rather the failure of one team to perform up to standard.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist