Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TEST-ing 1,2,3

" I don't like cricket, uh, oh no, I love it"- An obscure song lyric from band 10cc? Of course, but not merely a lyric more an accurate description of my life style. But let's specify here, I don't mind Twenty20, I enjoy ODIs but I absolutely love tests. Sure there can be tests where the pitch is a road and 600/3 plays 500/4 and it is a dull draw but a good test restores faith. One where the contest between bat and ball is toughly fought, a succession of balls missing the edge is followed by a flowing drive for four, batsmen have to graft rather than come in and tonk it from ball one, where a wily spinner will enjoy a wearing pitch and seam bowlers use swing to try and hit the top of off. These kind of tests where the result is not ensured until the final day revitalises my love for cricket making me want more and more.Unfortunately the introduction of competitions like the IPL lead people with short attention spans to call for the end of test cricket but let me tell you why it should remain.

But why are tests the ultimate?

Well it isn't called a test, for the hell of it. It literally tests the skills both physical and mental of the players. Here batsmen are not restricted by a number of overs, therefore neither are bowlers allowing the best batsmen to bat all day and the best bowlers to bowl all day. No fielding restrictions means there is no early advantage and no batting powerplay. Overall, it requires the best of players.

Perhaps I'm biased though. My natural talents did not bring in insanely quick bowling, instead as a steady medium paced bowler, my objective was to bowl line and length down the corridor of uncertainty. I'm not blessed with the skills of a stroke maker instead I would generally graft innings, sure I have bashed an odd fifty but my best innings have been all day forties where I have batted all day holding the team together.  Obviously I was influenced by great players of my youth, in particular Mark Richardson struck a chord with me. I remember watching him block his way to about 80 odd against England and what I remember most was the way he was frustrating them, blocking and grafting in an irritating way. When we went out in the backyard during lunch, I recreated him, blocking solidly and grafting was when I decided I wanted to be a batsmen that pissed bowlers off, cause them to make mistakes.If ever there was a form I was suited to, it would be the longest form.

So how about other formats? As I stated earlier, I don't mind Twenty20. Quite honestly, I find it hard to respect any form where they mix letters and numbers, I think one dayers would lose my respect if they started being called 1DIs. But really I get bored of Twenty20 quite easily, I mean there is only so much wild slogging to leg you can take before the gimmick wears off. Sure it is designed for those with a short attention span but quite honestly it is too dull for me. The thing that bothers me even more is the huge amounts of money involved. The IPL has meant that players like Kieron Pollard are multi millionaires without playing the top form of the game simply by being mercenaries and playing for teams all over the world and turning down contracts with their country.

I do however enjoy, ODIs but they too have a limited effect. The standard format of the batting side going after the ball for the first 15 overs then being quiet up until around the 35th over and then hitting out has produced some great games and much enjoyment but again far too predictable.

Tests provide the unpredictability that provides such entertainment. Therefore I rate the players that play it well as the greatest. In current times when I think of test batting, I think of Rahul Dravid, Alastair Cook and Glenn Mcgrath. Mcgrath hitting the same spot ball after ball just back of a length with a touch of swing forcing the batsman into a mistake. Dravid propping forward and playing that assured front foot defense which makes it seem as if he will never depart the crease. Alastair Cook leaving so confidently balls outside the line of off stump that he need not play and then calmly clipping the ball to leg. Sadly, Cook has received much criticism for batting too 'boringly' but I disagree with this. A batsman who knows his game so thoroughly that he knows which balls to play and which to leave so precisely is an amazing sight to behold especially when the batsman has cut out his weakness which is full length balls outside off stump (yes essentially every ball that should be bowled in test cricket) and is still succeeding. Surely it is a disappointing sign of the times that he is criticised for this rather than praised. 

Upon seeing this a typical bowler's reaction is "Damn, we may be here for some time"
Instead of a long drawn out conclusion about how I hope I have convinced you to love test cricket I will leave you with the simple statement: Viva la tests.

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