Dear all who listen, I am very much distressed about the future of Test cricket, especially after reading several articles on the recent recommendation by the MCC World Cricket Committee that nearly moved me to tears.
I will admit that I haven’t been long enough to see the good old days of Test cricket of the late ’90s and early 2000s, but I still have ingrained in me the love for the longest form of the game, something very rare amongst teenagers of my age.
In fact, I was so disappointed that the MCC should even have their name on such a radical change.
We are talking about the guardians of cricket, the bastion of fair play.
We are talking of the same MCC that stood up against the ICC and said Pakistan forfeited in 2006, the same MCC who refused to bend the rules to legitimise Murali’s action.
The MCC is the body who has stood up against political pressure, opinion and vitriol, to ensure the laws of the game were upheld. But alas, the ICC seems to have corrupted what I once saw as an untouchable bastion of purity.
The report from the MCC World Cricket Committee has suggested that no-balls be punished with free hits.
It is almost sacrilege to mention this, as this is the terminal step for Test cricket. The MCC’s media release said, “The system would not only be exciting for crowds when there was a Free Hit.”
Crowd excitement, really?
I am a die-hard Test fan and even I will admit that Test cricket is not designed to be exciting for crowds. It is designed to test the players, as the name suggests.
The Committee has overstepped the mark on this one, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Some might say that it’s only one small thing from short-form cricket to ‘improve’ the viewership of Test cricket, don’t be paranoid!
But it won’t work like that. As the saying goes, “Give them a hand, they will take the whole arm.”
One small thing leads to another and next thing you know we have a five-day orgy of sixes. Hang on, it will be four days soon enough.
The ironic thing about this change is that it completely annuls the whole purpose of these changes, which is to cut down on slow over rates and shorten the length of matches.
Which leads me to the next point on the cutting down of time between balls, overs and batsmen.
Why? Just why?
Honestly, we will soon see teams make 500 with 100 runs being free runs from being slightly over time.
These are just free runs. What ever happened to working for your runs? Grinding them out?
Test cricket is about working hard over five days. After reading Steve Waugh’s autobiography more times than I care to remember, he often used to take that extra time to disrupt the bowler’s rhythm.
But now – because taking one’s time is not in the modern vocabulary – the one area of modern life that has some tradition to it has to be changed.
If the MCC and ICC are serious about over rates, they should hit the players and teams where it hurts: the pocket.
Fine them until their IPL contracts go straight to the ICC’s bank account. Ban their players until they have no team, but for goodness’ sake, at least attempt to use the current sanctions a bit more before bringing in this.
Let people sit and wait for a bit longer. It’s a nice change, after all.
The other objectionable aspect of the MCC Committee’s plan was the recommendation that we let Test cricket become as homogenous as the short form.
That is, that we use the same ball for all matches.
There is merit in this idea – indeed, it would level the playing field. However, it would also remove the challenge of Test cricket.
Look at England. No-one will ever be able to quite master the Dukes ball like them, as no-one is better on dust bowls than the sub-continental teams.
Whilst there will still be variable pitch conditions, this change will do two things.
One, it will remove another element of the challenge of Test cricket, the ability to separate the good from the great, those who can perform abroad and at home.
Second, it actually would impede on the most recent fad of giving bowlers something back.
A bowler learns and hones their craft with their national ball: Jimmy Anderson the Dukes, the SG in India and the Kookaburra for Pat Cummins.
But by removing the variety in bowlers’ tools, we remove their potency to exploit batsmen against a certain ball and we also remove the ability to determine the great bowlers.
Glenn McGrath was a great bowler because he was able to produce the good with different balls in different conditions.
The urge to acknowledge greatness has been replaced with the era of ‘everyone wins a medal’.
Sure, I would like to see Afghanistan and Ireland compete with the best, but only if they have the skills to back it up, not have it made any easier.
I am in denial. I can barely say this myself, but Test cricket is dying, and if these changes pass, it will be officially deceased.
I urge, nay, I beg the MCC and the ICC to see some sense for once.
Please, if Test cricket is to die, let it die as a game I am proud of, a game I recognise, a game which is a test.
Let it die in peace, do not compromise to get money.
You have turned your backs on us, the loyal fans who love the game as it is, warts and all. But please, do not turn your back on us this time.
We are the reason it has lasted, so please do not kill the great game of Test cricket. Let it die the noble death it deserves, let it reflect the greats of the game, not the money of T20 cricket.
Please, just for once, give Test cricket some love, put in 110 per cent without the expectation of the rewards.
Please. Otherwise Test cricket will be dead.
A passionate fan of true Test cricket.