It is essential to have space for each format to survive in its own right, writes Greg Chappell
Residing as I do in Australia, it is sometimes difficult to follow all cricket that is going on around the world.
As I already watch a lot of cricket in my day job, I don’t always have the inclination to sit up each evening to watch some more.
Over the past few months there has been a smorgasbord of cricket being played with South Africa in Australia, England in India, Sri Lanka in Australia and New Zealand in South Africa. On top of that we have had the Big Bash Twenty20 League going on at night time in Australia.
For most people it must be impossible to stay on top of what is happening in every series.
No doubt, some will be attracted to one format over others, but it is essential to have space for each to survive in its own right. I would like to see more system to it so that there was a natural build-up to each series. If each ODI and T20 contributed to World Cup qualification and each Test to a World championship, every game would count.
To add to the intrigue, India has just reclaimed the No. 1 position on the ODI table while there has been an ongoing battle between, England, South Africa, India and Australia at the top of the Test rankings. With more flow to it all the excitement could be built for each event.
Of the cricket played, there has been some exhilarating performance across all formats. The big-hitting is impressive and the skill and composure to keep the opposition under 10 runs per over in the latter stages of a T20 match is obvious; but it is more entrée than main meal for me.
Fifty over cricket can develop some of the intrigue of a Test match, although field and over restrictions and the lack of a contest between bat and ball, stops it from being as exciting as I know it can be.
For some countries this format may be as close to Test cricket as they can hope to aspire so we need to give it as much support as it needs.
I enjoy them all in their own way, but the truly memorable moments for me in the past four months have all been provided by Test match cricket.
Who couldn’t appreciate the dash and verve of Warner, Clarke and Hussey in the Adelaide Test match in the series with South Africa?
Faf du Plessis then responded with one of the great debut double, including a second innings century that helped to save the Test match. It allowed his team to go on and claim the series in Perth.
Amla’s enchanting and ethereal batting in Brisbane and Perth once again demonstrated that the mind is much more important than the method, while Kallis’ ruthlessness with the bat, his all-round talents and his resilience earned further plaudits and ongoing admiration.
The fast bowling from both sides at different times in the series was simply brilliant. In the end it was the greater experience and fitness of the South African pace attack that was the difference.
Of them all, the battle that captured my imagination was the one that went on in the Test series in India, where England pulled off a monumental victory thanks to the batting of Cook and the clever spin bowling of Swann and Panesar.
The determination, courage and skill of Cook was the perfect demonstration to me of what Test cricket offers above and beyond anything the shorter formats can. His was a copybook demonstration of how to play spin in spinner-friendly conditions. He got well forward or well back and left balls that he did not need to play.
More importantly, he was prepared to go down the wicket to take the danger zone away from the Indian spinners and to attack them.
Too often, we see players who think that staying in the crease is the safest way to play spin bowling in helpful conditions. In fact, it is almost the most dangerous option to take, for it allows the spinner to settle on his length and actually increases the chances of being dismissed, while removing one of the main ways of scoring runs.
Cook and Clarke have both made incredible starts to their reign as captains of their country. They have shown that they have the nous and the flair for captaincy and their batting has gone to new heights with the responsibility.
I will be fascinated to watch the battles that they have over the next two series, this year and next, for it will likely define their respective periods at the helm. It is what Test cricket is really about for me; the test of character, will and courage, as well as the skill of the individual and the collective skill and determination of the team.
That might just serve to prove that I am a dinosaur stuck well and truly in the past, but it is still the form of cricket that provides me with the most drama and pathos.
I can only hope that enough of the next generation of player feels the same way about it for the Test format is under a lot of stress in the battle for the hearts and minds of the public.
Administrators around the world have been attracted to the shorter formats for very good reasons, but I can’t help but think that the game will be diminished if we allow Test cricket to become the poor relation in the battle.
If the players remain committed to it, Test cricket can stay at the pinnacle.