Kolkata: It was quite a pleasant sight to see Virat Kohli’s Team India winning against England at Vishakapatnam. Indeed, Alastair Cook’s men had no answer to the questions asked by the spinning trio of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and debutant Jayant Yadav. For the spectators in Vizag, they couldn’t have dreamt of a better start to the entry of Test cricket into the picturesque city.
Taking a cue from India’s triumph at Vizag, one can assume that Test cricket is steadily gaining back its lost glory. And it’s not just in India but the world over. Yes, Test matches are producing results much to the satisfaction of the members of the old school of thoughts.
The body language on the field is different. The newly-found aggression is noticeable. And the players are walking that extra mile to win, even if it means taking chances- a phenomenon that had died some fifteen years back.
Throwback to the India-Pakistan series in the late ’80s: Four dull draws on innocuous batting wickets were frustrating for both the skippers Kapil Dev and Imran Khan until a turning track at Bangalore laid the platform for one of the keenly fought contests in the history of the game. Little Master Sunil Gavaskar playing his 125th and last Test for India held fort against the likes of Taufeeq Ahmed and Iqbal Qasim for a lost cause though. It was a nail biting finish.
That was an exception. Draws were a common feature during those days that led to a tremendous fall in the interest level of fans in Tests. The ODIs had arrived and even an avid fan preferred the shorter format.
Fast forward to 2016 and the picture is changing. If we look at statistics then it’s quite heartening for a follower of Test cricket. According to a media report, 185 matches produced results out of the 246 played between 2010 and 2015. In 2016 itself the percentage of results is on the higher side all over the world. Hardly do we witness a draw and even if there is one, it’s a close one for example, the India-England Test at Rajkot. Though it is still early days to hail the comeback of the five-day game, yet there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Look at teams all around the world. Be it India or Australia or England or Pakistan, winning first rather than defending first is the motivating factor.
There could be several reasons attributed to the changing face of Test cricket. The curators are preparing pitches not meant for just batsmen. The aim is to get spectators back in the stadiums. If you are a batsman and hoping to get a batting paradise, then you are highly mistaken. Fight for your runs buddy because batting gold mines are a thing of the past.
There’s one more factor. Whether you like it or not, T-20 has played a major role in reshaping the future of its big brother. With an increasing number of T-20 matches being played now, the temperament and skills are reflected even in Test matches. The strike rates of some of the modern-day greats like Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Hashim Amla and others in Tests, justify the contribution of the truncated versions of the game. Most of them have a strike rate of 50 and above, which is quite commendable. The advent of T-20 hasn’t jolted their fortunes. On the contrary, they have only scaled greater heights in Test matches as well. What one-day internationals couldn’t do, T-20 has succeeded.
Bowlers on the other hand go for the kill. An attacking field placement means, getting wickets and not run checking is foremost on their minds. On the field, we have been witness to some spectacular catches and run outs. Thanks to this new trend, the game is inspiring players to be adept at both bowling and batting. Gone are those days, when a batting side’s dependence never transcended the acumen of the Number 6 batsman. Ashwin is looked up to as a formidable force both with the bat and the ball. He has also been pushed up the order. A Ben Stokes wields the willow with equal gumption as he holds the red cherry. Jadeja is expected to score some runs down the order and his responsibility doesn’t end getting a fiver with the ball. Expect a batsman to play a cameo for the team and he doesn’t disappoint. Isn’t he trained chasing 150 plus targets in 20 overs?
The conservatives may still fume at the ‘adverse’ effect T-20 has had on Test cricket. But the glamorous part of the Gentleman’s Game has done a great service to the future of Test matches. And let’s not repudiate it. So, it’s time not to admonish T-20 which has even changed the face of the 50-over format. Teams are scoring 350 and above and are even chasing them down.
All’s not bitter so far as T-20 cricket is concerned. Here’s wishing Test cricket all success on its comeback journey and thanking its youngest brother for helping it on its path to recovery.