It is now Test cricket time in India. The addicts of the traditional version of the game are in a very happy mood nowadays. For, a series of Test matches that were played in recent years underlined the romance, suspense and dramatic twists that are the characteristics of this great sport.
There were years during the previous decade when the die-hard Test-cricket lovers feared that the limited-over cricket would sooner or later drive the traditional form of the game into oblivion. But thanks to the courage, conviction and class exhibited by the performers, the traditional cricket remains like the poet's Brook.
Even the strong over-dose of limited-over cricket, better known as One-Day Internationals, did not have a morale shattering impact on Test cricket and its passionate lovers. The India-Australia, Australia-West Indies, South Africa-New Zealand, India-Pakistan, England-New Zealand, Sri Lanka-Australia, all played from 1998 to this day, created an amazing degree of interest in almost all the cricket-playing countries.
That is certainly sweet news for all those who just cannot tolerate the 'death' of traditional cricket. Without Test cricket, the game will be like a child without a mother to provide all the adorable qualities that ensure prosperity and credibility. The cricket lovers in Asia, especially in India, have certainly played a stellar role in lending the game an astounding support. If their patronage for the ODIs is unmatched by their counterparts in other cricket-playing nations, then their healthy reaction to Test cricket must be recorded as spontaneous.
Their appetite for cricket (both Test and ODIs) has been so strong that the game's administrators, sponsors and, of course the players are highly inspired. The game's administrators, sponsors and former players are thinking in terms of introducing a World Cup for Test cricket. That would speak eloquently for the high degree of respect and affection being enjoyed by traditional cricket. Even as the popularity graph of the ODIs stated showing a remarkable upward trend, many feared that the modern players would struggle in vain to adopt themselves to both versions of the game.
"That would kill Test cricket"-many believed. But the modern players rose to the occasion. There is any number of international cricketers in the world now who are capable of adjusting their style, technique and temperament to excel at both ODIs and Tests. The most significant aspect of this encouraging trend has been the astonishing fashion in which bowlers of international calibre adjust themselves to these varying atmosphere and conditions. The terrific trio of Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble has always enjoyed bowling in the matches of longer-duration.
Their extraordinary skill to excel in Test match conditions and situations made them a set of world class bowlers. Srinath who has been rested from the recent ODIs for this purpose would be longing to underline his class once again. Kumble's success-rate in recent ODIs had kept him out of the Toronto and Nairobi tours. He too would be sharpening his skills to prove the world that there could not be an India Test team without Kumble for some more years to come. Venkatesh Prasad is a popular exponent of swing bowling. The nature of the pitch seldom worries him.
Thus the three-Test Series between India and New Zealand starting in Mohali from Sunday (Oct 10 to 14) could as well be a heaven-sent opportunity for this trio. With an enthusiastic spinners Sunil Joshi (left-arm) and Harbhajan Singh (off-spinner) the trio is bound to form a formidable bowling department that would decide India's fortunes. India's batting line-up is as rich as ever. At least one new face -Vijay Bharadwaj-is bound to be there in this line-up. How well and true Sachin Tendulkar has recovered from his nagging back problem will be watched with great interest.