Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tests need mavericks and their charisma

With the widespread demand and supply of T20 and ODI games in cricket, Tests face the fear of getting defunct, if not by the day, but definitely by the years. And IPL, Champions League and the barrage of media and financial coverage offered by the business houses and the associate name and fame hasn't helped the cause either!!

The increasing affinity of the audiences, business houses and sponsors towards the fast paced T20 format of the game has even led to ICC toying with the idea of 3 – 4 day Tests instead of a regular 5 day affair!! But I think, to stall the dwindling spectator interest and in fact to increase it to make it more interesting (if I am allowed to call so) and result oriented, an effort is required from both the administrators (to bring in changes like the UDRS) and the players (to show an intent to take games towards eventual results). In this regard, I would like to quote the Australians, who over the years, have fought hard and always looked for results, to the effect that they even look to declare their innings midway of the 3rd session of the 4th day of a test to affect a result!! An approach like this is what will make Tests more interesting, and not something where teams would bat through to safety and then call the opposition in again. Cricketing reforms like the UDRS is again very good, because it brings in technology to improve the quality of games and eventual results.

I think, ICC can even limit the amount of money a player can make from sponsorships and other games outside the ambit of International Cricketing calendar. I know, this type of regulation would ignite worldwide criticism especially from players and from the boards too, because that would restrict the money they can make outside of cricket. Even regulating the laying of pitches at the Test centers in all the Test playing nations shouldn't be tough either, considering the limited number of tests played across the world in a year. I strongly believe maintaining a consistent approach across for the pitches should encourage results, more often. Similarly, more such changes and reforms could inspire the spectators and bring more interest to Tests.

Apart from this, I believe that there are players like Virender Sehwag have the potential to attract new genre of spectator interest in the Tests. He has played some true blinders over the past few years and already 2 such innings in the just concluded Test series between India and Sri Lanka. He has been called a maverick, entertainer, destroyer, but they still fail to capture his true essence. He has affected the results more often than none, and who would not, having a strike rate of more than 80 in Tests when compared to the best in the business having anywhere between 50-60. He sets the game for his team and leaves and onus on the rest to take it to completion. And in most of the matches, where he has fired on all cylinders, which he usually does, India has won the match!!

All in all, I believe, instead of playing only a few number of tests or decreasing their duration by a day or two, ICC should think of bringing in cricketing reforms to add more zing and make tests more result oriented. Tests are not only the test of your cricketing skills, but also your mental and endurance skills. Believe me, encouraging results or at least a fight by initiating some thoughtfully crafted changes should do the job!! Till then, we should hail players like Virender Sehwag and Steve Waugh who have made results possible by their entertaining and forward looking tricks.
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