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Testing our patience

by Justin Rourke

I have written before of my concerns for test cricket and nothing that has happened of late provides any encouragement. Seeing a shadow South Africa team or b-team sent to play a full test match series overseas is wrong and should not be permitted.

South Africa are not alone, the attendances in Australia this last few months are a real concern, whilst West Indies also are often shorn of their best players.

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I have some empathy with the players. Careers are short at best, and many are cut shorter again by injury. If you took the analogy away from sport, which of us would not choose to work or two days per week for a higher salary than working a full 5-day week?

This is not unique to cricket either, whilst I am not a fan of LIV golf, I respect Dustin Johnson for being honest about it. Rugby Union faces similar challenges and the bankruptcy of three Premiership clubs should serve as a warning to the administrators of cricket.

T20/The Hundred is here to stay. It makes money and it draws in an audience who do not have the time or interest in the nuance of the highest test in cricket. That is not a criticism, its just accepting the facts. T20 is also a leveller, the gap between the best teams and the rest is much smaller as there is much more likelihood of a fluke/freak outcome over such a short period of time.

T20 is the format that can safeguard the long-term future of cricket. Outside of that the powerful cricket boards of India, England and Australia need to take some responsibility for the game because the ICC seem devoid of such responsibility or accountability.

Test cricket is not for everyone and not many nations have the resources, player pool or support base to make it work. In addition to India, England and Australia there are 5 other teams with the potential to play competitive test cricket; Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka – provided they all have the will to play these 8 nations should be pitted against each other in an ongoing 4-year cycle to be world champions.

The series should be either 3 or 5 tests and set on a rota with the time, date and venue reoccurring so that it forms part of the sporting calendar.  It should not overlap with any T20 franchise or international tournament and all players should earn the same wage (they can still add to earnings via sponsorship and franchise cricket).

The elephant in the room is 50 over cricket, whilst is a shame, it should not be played by the test playing nations at all. It can serve a purpose for those under that level (Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Ireland etc.). Tough decisions and sacrifices need to be made to future proof the game.

Whilst I suspect that all of the above is too much to ask of the “leaders” of our game, there are a number of simple things that can be done as a start point. The excellent Ian Chappell addresses a number of them in his recent article Ian Chappell – Why aren’t we making a bigger deal of the slow pace of play in Test cricket? | ESPNcricinfo

He is not wrong, the style of play that England are championing is a help, but even England are not immune from the nonsense time wasting that goes on in a day’s test cricket. Here are some quick fixes (predominantly based on games played in the UK).

  • Start at 10am
  • 30 min break (12.30 -13.00)
  • 30min break (15.30 – 16.00)
  • Close of play 6pm subject to overs being bowled.
  • No drinks on the field unless pre agreed by the Umpires and Match referee based on temperature. And then only at a specified time.
  • No ad-hoc drinks/change of gloves between overs.
  • Batsman must be ready when bowler is at end of mark.
  • No player reviews (Umpire can engage 3rd umpire and vice versa as required)
  • No sub fielder unless Umpires confirm a genuine injury (drinks/toilet breaks mean you field with 10 men).
  • Only the Umpire can decide to change the ball, the players are not permitted to request a change.
  • To score a boundary four the ball must touch or cross the rope/advertising triangle thingy (not the player).
  • At the end of each day any overs not bowled (after allowance for rain or other delays) incur a penalty based on the run rate of the day. (If the run rate is 3 per over, and there are 5 overs not bowled the batting team have 15 runs added to extras).
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