Bangalore, Jul 16: With the much hyped Test series between India and England lurking around the corner, there are now incessant talks of how it is going to revive the health of cricket's ultimate format. People who might have never wielded a willow are seeing a hope for the dying Test cricket, but hang on, is the format that is going to see its 2000th episode, is in really that bad a condition. A realistic look and the answer will be no.
For skeptics, interest for Test cricket might be on the wane, but for the fans of the game it is as good as it ever was. Even before the India-England Test series gets underway, any layman with the slightest knowledge about the game can say that the stadias will get full houses. Same can be said about India's tour of Australia scheduled for the later part of this year. So then, the question arises why are the skeptics busy writing obituary for Test Cricket or trying to find hopes for resurrecting the format?
Their concerns are not totally unfounded, but on a bigger platform the truth is sensationalisation. Leaving the blame game aside, and focussing on why there are concerns about Test cricket's health, the answer lies in the sub-continent and somewhere in the Carribean islands.
To understand why Test Cricket is being increasingly written off, one has to attend a series in Sri Lanka, or in the featherbeds of Indian cricket stadias. The answer lies in the uninspiring quality of pitches that are on offer. It is not the same in Australia, England, SOuth Africa and New Zealand where pitches still retain their nature and invariably end up producing results.
Australia and South Africa are known for their pace-friendly pitches, England and New Zealand for the tracks that aid swing-bowling and it is more often than not that the visiting teams find the conditons a bit alien and struggle to keep going. Truly remarkable sides overcome the conditions and in the manner produce a gripping sight of Test cricket.
Unfortunately, the same is not true of India and Sri Lankan pitches, which at one point of time were known to be a paradise for spin-bowlers. But off-late, in their respective board's bid to produce the so-called sporting pitches that aid fast bowlers, they have made a mess and metamorphed the turning-tracks into feather-beds where getting a batsman out becomes the most arduous task in the world.
India might have lost the advantage of having the alien conditions for the likes of Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand, but the team is nevertheless playing some excellent cricket to win matches on home turf and keep its fans interested. But a Test match , is an exercise in futility where the batsmen will pile runs followed by another round of run-riot with bowlers merely serving the purpose of making up the others. Its therefore more often than not that scoreline of a three-match series reads 1-0.
Test cricket is in no bad health to require a panacea to regain its glory, it only needs simple fixes to ensure that the game's fan-base, especially in the sub-continent get to see the opposition teams fighting out the alien conditions and in the process providing a sight to behold. No one wants to see 600-plus scores that result in draw.
It is therefore up to the ICC and the national boards to ensure that their pitches retain the local flavour to test the opposition team's skills.