“For a while now, the fascination of Test cricket has diminished. What used to be a passion is fading out gradually, and its future is now the talk of the town. Will things change in the future or not is an open debate, but one can expect matches to be more competitive and energetic if the shorter formats precede Tests”.
Cricket gets more intense when there is competition and both the sides are evenly matched. Most of the fans want quality matches, where both the teams stand an equal chance of winning. One-sided games are too dull in this era, where a lot of cricket is being played around the globe. With the emergence of Twenty20 cricket, the longest format of the game has taken a severe beating and one-sided Test matches are not helping the cause.
Test matches are becoming more predictable as the home sides have been on a winning spree in the recent times, which is killing the fun and intensity. The home advantage is turning out to be the most crucial factor in red ball cricket. Home sides are exploiting the conditions to the fullest and making it difficult for the visiting side. India dominated the Test season back at home but lost the series in South Africa by 2-1. The Proteas, on the other hand, looked bereft of oomph when they toured India in 2015, but put up a good show against the same side at home. England suffered a tragic defeat in the recently concluded Ashes, losing the series 4-0.
The same Indian and England sides were unstoppable against the white ball, winning the ODI series by 5-1 and 4-1 respectively. India also won the T20 series. One of the main reasons behind teams doing well in shorter formats on overseas tours could be the batting friendly nature of the wicket, which is consistent across the globe.
The conditions in Test cricket mostly aid the home side, the pitch is dished out to assist them as well. They are used to this home conditions. But that is hardly the scenario when it comes to ODIs and T20s. One can’t deny the fact that Test cricket is losing its glory, but if matches turn out to be unpredictable and intense, it can well regain it. At present, Test cricket demands competition, uncertainty and passion. Can twisting the things around making a difference?
Let’s say, what if an overseas tour starts with shorter formats and then concludes with Tests? Now, what will this type of an arrangement do? This will only infuse confidence and help the visiting side gets used to the alien conditions and adapt. They will only get better by making the required technical changes in order to succeed. With the conditions in shorter formats being homogenous on most of the occasions, playing it first will only help them acclimatise better for the Tests.
Imagine, had India played the ODI series against South Africa before the Tests, what would the result of Test series have been? It would have given the Indian side the confidence and belief going into the Test series. Their batsmen would have got a better idea than what they had and so the bowlers. The Test series would have been much more interesting. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the home side has been robbed of the advantage. They still stand a good chance, but a set up like this will add more spice.
When teams toured India during the home Test season, they looked vulnerable against Indian spinners. Australia did well, but it would have been better had they played the shorter formats before. They did win a Test and drew one, but Indian spinners were too hot to handle. In future, this set up can be a good option and can be seriously considered. India had a tough time the last time they toured England and Australia. They are scheduled to tour England in the upcoming future. India won the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy and made it to the final last year, both were played in England. Playing the shorter formats before will only help them know the conditions earlier and get better.
Some Test matches get over within three days, which does not make it commercially viable. Matches need to end on the final day, which is possible if the conditions are sporting and both the sides are equally equipped to counter-attack it. ODIs will also have more context if they precede Tests. After a long hard fought Test series, players are invariably rested for ODIs and the intensity drops. But that won’t happen if ODIs are played before the Tests.
For a while now, the fascination of Test cricket has diminished. What used to be a passion is fading out gradually, and it’s future is now the talk of the town. Will things change in the future or not is an open debate, but one can expect matches to be more competitive and energetic if the shorter formats precede Tests.