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Test cricket is under threat

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04 Feb 2022 13:37 #395167 by chairman
By Greg Chappell
February 4, 2022
theage.com.au


For centuries, the armoured knights on horseback were unchallenged on the European battlefield. It was only the introduction of the pike by Swiss footmen and the Welsh longbow in the 14th century that redressed the balance.

Fast bowlers have been the equivalent of cricket’s armoured knights ever since Harold Larwood laid waste to the Australian footmen in the Ashes series of 1932-33. The team with the best pace attack has usually held sway since. The various iterations of the four horsemen of the apocalypse from the West Indies absolutely decimated their opposition, in all conditions, from the late 1970s until the mid-90s.
Stellar Aussies retain women's Ashes

Stellar Aussies retain women's Ashes

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Stellar Aussies retain women's Ashes
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Australia have retained the women's Ashes in the first one-day international.

Alas, the days of the West Indies producing a constant battery of tall pace bowlers have long gone, and pitch conditions in the region are more conducive to producing spin bowlers than pace anyway.

The ascendancy of the Australian pace attack this summer was the decisive factor in the Ashes. Nothing separates the men from the boys in Test cricket more than genuine pace. Only a quartet of quality spinners in turning conditions have ever caused as much discombobulation among batsmen, though the risk to life and limb, and the raw emotion that pace engenders is in a different league.

It has been interesting to watch the Under-19 World Cup in the Caribbean, which will come to a climax in the early hours of Sunday morning when England take on the might of India – who are in their fourth consecutive final – at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua.

The usual protagonists have risen to the top of the table at the youth World Cup. Apart from India and England, Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan finished in the top six. The one surprising result was Afghanistan finishing in the top four. It is not quite so surprising when one considers the quality of their spinners, at that level.

The disappointments in the Caribbean have been the hosts themselves, who finished 11th, and Bangladesh (seventh) and South Africa (eighth). At least the West Indies and South Africa produce quality fast bowlers, which keep them competitive at the Test level.
While the recent Ashes series was great, Test cricket is struggling in many parts of the world.

While the recent Ashes series was great, Test cricket is struggling in many parts of the world.Credit:Getty

Other participating countries included Ireland, Scotland, UAE, Canada, Papua New Guinea and Uganda. Sadly, none of them are going to be a force in Test cricket any time soon, until they have a viable and vibrant domestic first-class competition. Afghanistan will also struggle to be a force, for the same reason.

It is hard enough for established Test-playing countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where cricket is the dominant sport, because their domestic first-class competition is more akin to Premier League cricket in Australia. Without bowlers of express pace they will rarely win away from home.

It is no coincidence that India’s improved performances overseas in the past 15 years have been on the back of developing a battery of fast bowlers. Indeed, fast bowlers are the not-so-secret ingredient of champion teams who win at home and away.

Despite the disruption to their cricket, Pakistan continue to produce quality pace bowlers. However, top-quality batsmen are thin on the ground there.

To be fair, reaching the top as a bowler, where one mistake is not terminal, is arguably easier than it is for a batsman. But, I would say that, wouldn’t I? I do expect a couple of indignant phone calls today from Messrs DK Lillee and SK Warne.

Surprisingly, the T20 format has been a renaissance of sorts for canny spin bowlers. Leg-spinners are like gold in the shortest format, but I am bewildered by them getting the cold shoulder in Test cricket. Left-arm finger spinners and off-spinners seem to be preferred in Test cricket, despite the undoubted match-winning strike power of a good wrist spinner.
The IPL has changed the cricketing landscape since its first season in 2008.

The IPL has changed the cricketing landscape since its first season in 2008.Credit:Getty

Speaking of the shorter format, I am increasingly alarmed at how T20 leagues dominate the cricket landscape. Test cricket’s greatest competition is coming from within. Administrators from around the world are going to have to deal with this problem or Test cricket will become another threatened species.

India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India more precisely, will have the biggest say in whether this continues or not. If they choose the path of least resistance and keep pushing the IPL barrow, to the exclusion of all else, it will be hard for cricket administrators to stand up to.

I would like to see the ICC representatives from each country be chosen from the ranks of former Test captains, so that the integrity of the game in all its forms is zealously guarded and steered by those who understand its nuances and value best. If we continue to populate the ranks of administration with those from the business and the political world, money and power will always be the winner. As former Australian prime minister Paul Keating colourfully opined: “In the race of life, always back self-interest – at least you know it’s trying.”

We should never forget that each generation of players and administrators are only the custodians of the game for the next generation. Too often, sadly, the cricket voices are drowned out by the expediency of the next round of television rights and the bottom line for those who will not be around in 10 years time to see the damage that they have inflicted upon the game.

One thing is for sure, once Test cricket becomes a format that is only considered important to a handful of countries, it will be as good as dead. I don’t want to be around to see the day when the IPL is the equivalent of football’s EPL and players ply their trade with venture capital firms and occasionally suit up for their country in a Test match.

We desperately need some strong leaders who will stridently resist all further encroachments on the red-ball game. Since the invasion of the shortest format, I have witnessed an alarming erosion of batting standards. Building an innings is becoming a lost art. Under pressure, the first inclination is to swing for the rafters, rather than dig deep and push back against challenging bowling. The depth of the pool of quality batsmen around the world is shallower than I have ever seen. The hard-fought draw that we saw in the recent Sydney Test match is fast becoming a rare event.

Cricket is a unique game. I can’t think of another sport that has three distinct formats that all work at the highest level. We need to fight hard to stem the hemorrhaging of Test cricket.

I would hate to see it go the same way as the armoured knights in the days of yore.

Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime.
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11 Feb 2022 13:25 #395254 by chairman
If you pay me a wage to be a teacher but the working conditions are shit it doesnt matter how much you pay me shit will be the outcome.

@cricdino
is telling me grass isnt even cut at some clubs in T&T to rass.

We're expecting miracles from players knowing that is impossible.

Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime.
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