13 January 2017
Ian Chappell told Pakistan not to bother coming back to Australia after their recent drubbing, and he’s right.
Something needs to be done to increase the competitiveness of test match cricket. Thrashings have become commonplace and a good contest a rarity. When a team wins abroad, it’s a Herculean feat.
Why the discrepancy?
The condensed nature of modern tours is partly to blame. Touring sides are not afforded enough time to adapt to foreign conditions and are ill prepared when the real Test begins.
Tours are only getting shorter too as more fixtures are crammed into the international calendar, so the solution lies elsewhere.
Scrapping the toss is a good starting point. Hopefully, other domestic competitions and eventually international contests will follow the ECB’s lead, after they gave the decision to bat or ball to the away side for the 2016 county season.
Though it may seem subtle, winning or losing the toss can be the difference between winning and losing a test. Australia’s Gabba dominance is a classic example.
Excluding the current Australian summer, typically the first test is held in Brisbane, a fortress for Steven Smith and his men. Win the toss. Bat first. Accumulate 500 or more and watch the opposition wilt. Not only is the first test decided by the end of day two following an Australian declaration, but the series too, as momentum often knocks out any chance of a fight back.
Eliminating the coin toss is only part of the solution.
The unfamiliarity which touring sides have with foreign wickets is arguably the biggest factor that leads to their demise. The home side is accustomed to the wicket, so why is there an insistence to bias the wicket, further negating the opposition?
Creating and enforcing strong regulations regarding pitch preparations is an important step. Remember, this is not for the benefit of the away side, but test cricket as a whole. When a side gets crushed inside three days, fans lose interest in the great game.
Furthermore, if nations cooperated, helping one another to produce practice wickets, which emulated the pitches of other countries, a much better contest would result. Players’ preparation would improve greatly, resulting in cricketers who can play in all conditions.
I can hear the traditionalists arguing these changes will take away the home ground advantage. Fear not! You only need to look to the likes of football where there are only slight changes in conditions, yet a thorough advantage continues to exist.
There is more to be gained by bringing equality to test match cricket, the tight contest being the most obvious drawcard.
Compare matches between countries with similar conditions and you’ll often see a good old-fashioned tussle, with all factors equal. Australia and South Africa have had some cracking contests in recent years.
On the flip side is the recently completed series between India and England in the subcontinent. While the score line doesn’t always accurately reflect the nature of the contest, in this case, the 4 nil drubbing was picture perfect as the Poms were simply outclassed.
Administrators need to begin installing changes now or test cricket will lose it all.