What brilliant work from Oshada Fernando at short leg!
Test cricket is considered to be the purest form of cricket but the popularity of this format is dying in the next generation.
This is the oldest format of cricket with the longest match duration and its standard is considered to be highest among all three formats.
But unfortunately, Test cricket has lost its charm in terms of competition as well as the crowd. Nowadays the cricket is being played in empty stadiums but before this pandemic, there was not a huge crowd in the stadiums during the Test matches.
The main reason for this was the lack of competition due to various reasons which will be discussed later.
So, to revive the Test cricket, ICC had amended some rules and allowed the day/night Test matches with the pink ball. Also, they have introduced the concept of the ICC World Test Championship to keep this format alive.
There is another concept of four-day Test matches which is already been implemented in the two Test matches. So the question is why there is a need for four-day Test matches? This is because there are startling stats of matches finishing within four days in the previous years.
In 2019 until August, 13 out of 19 five-day Tests have finished within four days – that’s 68.42 per cent, the highest ever for a calendar year in which a minimum of ten Tests have been played. While in 2018, it was 56.25 per cent (27 of the 48 five-day Tests) and in 2017, it was 47.83 per cent (22 of the 46 five-day Tests) and these three years are among the top five years in terms of a match finishing with a day spare.
Now, another question is why are Test matches finishing within four days? We have a recent example where Pakistan lost to England within four days despite losing some overs due to rain on Day 1. Here are some reasons for the matches finishing a day before schedule.
Technical flaws of the current players
There is always a special defensive technique for the batsman to play Test cricket but unfortunately, this is missing in the current players. We have seen the ’90s batsmen leaving whole overs but not going towards the ball outside off which forces the bowler to bowl in the line of wickets. This is a high temperament that guides a batsman towards the high scoring knock.
Nowadays batsmen usually tend to score quick runs rather than to stay longer and build innings which leads them to lose early wickets. Recently, I’ve seen Shan Masood leaving the ball, not going for quick runs and taking his time which gave me the glimpses of old Test cricket and every cricket expert is appreciating his innings.
There are few players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Steve Smith and others who play Test cricket as it is to be played and their batting is worth watching. So due to lack of temperament, teams are unable to bat longer which in turn finishes the match early.
Quality of pitches
This may not be the perfect reason but this is also one of the reasons for early finishing. There have to be pitches that last for all five days and not begin to wear and tear in the second innings, especially in Asia.
But in present cricket, the pitches behave perfectly on Day 1 and maybe on Day 2 but begin to die out from Day 3 onwards. This results in the low-scoring contests because the ball begins to turn a lot and it becomes a difficult surface to bat on.
Whereas outside Asia especially in Australia and New Zealand there are drop-in pitches that are used in the whole season. Since this is an artificial wicket so it is good for one or two Tests but it begins to slow down as more matches are played. As the pitches slow down, it affects the quality of the game and thus results in the loss of charm.
Due to shorter format and T20 leagues
With the inclusion of T20 format and T20 leagues around the globe, the priority of players has been diverted. The players are finding the easy and short way to play cricket and maintain their fitness so they are leaving the longest format to make themselves fit and available for the shorter formats.
One such example is Muhammad Amir, who has left the Test cricket too early to make his career long in the limited-overs cricket. Also, the amount of money that foreign leagues have brought in also reduces the financial burden of the players so they’ll not hesitate to leave the central contract just because of Test cricket.
Also, if any player plays all three formats then due to playing short formats excessively, their technique of playing Test matches has changed a lot which in turn reduces the competition.
So, if the behaviour of the players remains the same which, will be difficult to change, then it’ll be almost impossible to revive Test cricket. They’ll have to give proper attention to Test cricket and I still believe this format cricket players perfect and true cricket lovers still love it.