Cricket has been defined by the players in white jerseys who strategize their play for two innings and define their prowess on the field for 5 days.
Cricket has always been a Gentleman’s game and Test matches have paved the way for cricketers into shorter formats. The 5-day play that tests a batsman’s patience and the ability to bat longer, inculcates in them the ability to stabilize and plan their innings.
The bowlers get a chance to practice their swing and ball effectively while playing Test matches and there’s a reason why Test matches have been regarded as the most respectful form of cricket.
There’s a reason why Test Cricket is the ultimate format of the game. Cricket is played in various forms with Test Cricket, ODIs and T20s being the most played and each format has its importance.
Players across the globe and Cricket boards have declared the Test format as paramount and several reasons support the argument.
The evergreen format of the game, Test Cricket was the inception of cricket in the sub-continent and other parts of the world. Since its origination, the game has progressed with time and has seen quite a few arbitrations in its playing style and format.
The game was introduced in 1877 and the name clearly defines the state of the format. It tests the various abilities of the players on a field and there are only a few players who have succeeded in the format. There were a few timeless Tests played between 1912 and 1939, and this led to the addition of a rest day to give break to the players.
The game was usually played for 6-7 days and the cricketing board decided to alter the playing days for an efficient game.
The game went on to become a 5-day encounter between the two teams and a rest day was provided between the third and the fourth day of the match.
The rest day was of not much use and was abandoned in 1997 after the India-West Indies test match in Bridgetown.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) shifted back to a six-day Test match and the format was teased by the council with a game between Australia and World XI.
The experiment was rather a bad experience for ICC as the Test match wound up in just three and a half days.
There have been a lot of reservations in the format and now there are sessions limited for a day in Test Cricket.
Three sessions are played in a day with 30 overs played in one session, and the breaks between sessions are 40 minutes for lunch and twenty minutes for tea.
Of late, a lot has been spoken about the ‘health’ of Test match cricket, and how the crowd doesn’t turn out in the same enthusiasm for the purest form of the game as it does for the other formats.
There has been a lot spoken about the longevity and the stretch of the format, and for the crowd to come and enjoy the game, a lot is being experimented in recent times.
The recently introduced day-night format in Test cricket which is played with the pink ball is a serious effort to draw the crowd closer to the format.
The more recent regulation in the test format has been the speculation around the 4-day format. The authorities are keen on decreasing a day from the Test matches and it is just not acceptable by the Gentlemen of the game.
How do the players feel about this change?
The experimental game between South Africa and Zimbabwe saw South Africa win the game with the South African board even supporting the format.
Other than the South African cricket board, the English Cricket Board (ECB) has been supportive of the format and even launched a statement in support.
But the players have undermined the decision with the captains of all the Test-playing nations voicing their arguments in sync against the 4-day Test.
South African captain, Faf du Plessis has voiced his opinion against the four-day format and the player’s opinion should be heard by the board as he has himself been a part of the experiment match against Zimbabwe. The Proteas skipper was quite diplomatic when asked about the format and openly opposed the Cricket of South Africa (CSA).
“You have to ask CSA as to what their opinion is but in mine‚ I’m a fan of Test cricket going the full five days. The great draws of the game have always gone the full five days. I’m not speaking on the other stuff that goes into four-day cricket and I understand there’s a lot of money being burnt on day five because of many games not going the distance‚” Du Plessis continued, “I’m a purist of the game and I’ve been part of many great draws that went five days and this game was no different. There wasn’t going to be a result in four days on the pitch we played on. It’s still special when you’ve got Ben Stokes running in on day five while he’s shattered from bowling a long spell and we’re just trying to survive. That for me is what makes the extra day so special.”
The skipper’s opinion can be heard quite clear and loud and CSA should consider it before declaring their support for the four-day test as this could create a rift between the board and the players.
In all respects, there was a reason why the game was played for five days and even though quicker formats have been introduced in the game, the purest form of a Test match is the one played with steady hands and patience.
The ICC is ardent on removing the final day from Test cricket and this could be the biggest mistake in the history of the game as it will destroy the sanctity of Cricket.
But, on the other side, ICC will be able to save a lot of funds as not many fans come for a long game of five days and these funds could be used to improve the other formats.
If ICC goes with their business proposal, they’ll probably have to give up on the pureness of Cricket and the joy of moment the limited number of fans enjoy in Test cricket.
Captain of Indian Team and currently one of the finest players of the format, Virat Kohli denied the Test match to be trimmed to 4-days and was against the proposal. In his support, Indian coach Ravi Shastri was quite vocal and backed his captain.
Virat Kohli in the press conference said, “According to me, the game should not be altered. As I said, the day-night is another step towards commercializing Test cricket and you know, creating excitement around it, but it can’t be tinkered with too much. I don’t believe so. You know the Day-Night Test is the most that should be changed about Test cricket, according to me. Then you are purely only talking about getting numbers, entertainment and you know,” the captain continued, “So I don’t endorse that at all. I don’t think that is fair to the purest format of the game. How cricket started initially, and you know five-day Tests was the highest of tests you can have at the International level.”
Shastri called the four-day format complete nonsense and was backed by BCCI as they invalidated the ICC’s decision. Test Cricket is not just about the final day.
The proper feel of the format is by enjoying every moment of the game. The purity of the format is in the complete play that lasts for five days and most of the interesting games last for the complete five days.
Change is necessary and it helps in running things with more proficiency, but change should be limited to a few terms. Anything beyond that is just vague and this is the same in case of the 4-day proposal.
The four-day test decision is purely a business-headed decision that denies the possibility of an even-headed game.
Test Cricket has been the format enjoyed by most of the cricketers and will continue so as it breaks the mentality of a player completely and tests them in the harshest of conditions.
The Test fans are surely pissed off with this proposal and would not want the solemnity of the game to be disturbed at all. Clearly, there are not many Test fans in the world as the game requires too much time and attention, and in this fast-paced world rarely people get time for themselves.
As a result, the stands are mostly found to be empty in a Test match and the four-day tests will save a lot of money and logistics for ICC. But the question is, ‘Can ICC compromise on the game for money?’
The outcome is yet to come and we will have to wait for the decision and how ICC thinks of its decision. Till then, let’s enjoy the game as it is, in its purest form and cheer for the players who have given their heart and soul to the game.
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