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Updated: August 19, 2009 15:41 IST

Of Test cricket and katti rolls

G. Viswanath
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Sachin Tendulkar launches the book 'Out of the Box' by Harsha Bhogle (L) in Mumbai.
Sachin Tendulkar launches the book 'Out of the Box' by Harsha Bhogle (L) in Mumbai.

In diverse assertions Chris Gayle, Adam Gilchrist and David Morgan have all provided plenty of food for thought on Test cricket in the last few months.

Gayle’s “I wouldn’t be so sad if Test cricket died out” soon after Kolkata Knight Riders’ failed campaign in the DLF-IPL season II in South Africa and after he landed in London just two days before the West Indies-England series, invited scowls from the purists and condemnation from legendary West Indies cricketers.

In comparison, Gilchrist’s comments were dissected and varied interpretations came forth. Gilchrist said “To preserve Test cricket’s future, which we must (less is in fact more) we should go back to the future where there were fewer Test matches, but a lot more important ones and where the best cricketers of the day played close to 50 Tests in their career, not 150.” There were plenty of takers for Gilchrist’s candid views; no one derided him.

David Morgan, the ICC President stirred the pot saying four-day Test cricket is on the agenda. Since, many former and present international cricketers have shared their thoughts.

Matthew Hayden wants a two-tier system for Test cricket. This view is being backed by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

More recently, Shane Warne touched upon a technical point that pitches should not be rolled and swept once the match has begun.

Test cricket which cricketers swear is the ultimate form of the game is the topic of discussion these days at clubs, maidans and seminars at five-star hotels.

Cricket chat

After the release of Harsha Bhogle’s Out of the Box, a 275-page compilation of his columns in the Indian Express at the Taj Land’s End on Tuesday, Sanjay Manjrekar, Lalit Modi, Rajdeep Sardesai and Bhogle sat on bar stools and chatted with gusto on cricket for three quarters of an hour.

Guests dug in and had a hearty fill of the gourmet delights like thava kheema, potato puff, katti rolls and the lovely assorted pastries, but not before they heard Manjrekar and Modi offering their profound views on the pet subject of these days: How to make Test cricket tick?

Manjrekar began saying: “People still like three slips, two gullies and a tumbling catch taken, but those moments are spread out over seven hours every day and for five days. Test cricket needs to be tweaked a little bit to make it more interesting for the masses. I like excellence in cricket, Test, one-day or Twenty20. I like Yusuf Pathan sending the ball over the roof, but I don’t like mediocre cricket. There is no competition in a big chunk of a 50 over match. I don’t know where cricket is heading towards.”

Modi put up a stout defence of Twenty20, when asked if it’s destroying cricket, so strongly rationalised by Richard Hadlee and assured that the ICC’s Future Tour Programme (FTP) post 2012 will give paramount place to Test cricket. “I don’t agree that Twenty20 is destroying Test cricket. We had to find ways to bring back the crowd to the stadium. We got a new audience for Twenty20 matches played under lights. The viewership is declining for Test cricket. So I have suggested to the MCC that Test cricket can be played under lights so that people can watch cricket after their duty hours.”

Sachin’s views

Sachin Tendulkar, seated close to Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Express Group and Resul Pookutty of Slumdog Millionaire fame, reiterated that venues should set aside a stand for school children and they should be allowed free entry for Test matches. “I was a ten-year-old when I saw the first Test match against the West Indies; it’s still fresh in my memory. Allowing free entry for school children for a Test match would help develop interest for a Test match. I have made this suggestion to the BCCI.”

In between the chat show, green baize maestro Michael Ferreira, thought to be a man with rabid views on cricket, took the opportunity to convince the men on stage and the audience that he is a great fan of cricket, does not miss a ball and so on. He in fact praised Modi for marketing the game so well, but was quick to add that he’s disappointed the same has not happened in other sports.

Dhanraj Pillay and Viren Rasquina, CEO of Geet Sethi’s Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) followed suit with the latter articulating that a few things went wrong with the organisation of ESPN STAR Sports sponsored Premier Hockey league and that credibility, management and planning are vital aspects for a venture to become successful and that the IPL has been a classic example. What he did not say was Infosys Technologies’ N. R. Naryanamurthy’s mantras for success, “Speed, imagination, excellence and execution” that IPL has shown since the launch of the Twenty20 event last year.

Those with passion for cricket left the Taj Land’s End in full agreement with Manjrekar’s views and not knowing where cricket is headed for. And Rajdeep Sardesai was left wondering why a Test match has not been held at Eden Gardens for five years?

Modi told him the BCCI follows a rotation policy. The fact is India and Pakistan played a Test match at the Eden in November 2007 with Wasim Jaffer making 202, Sourav Ganguly 102 and V.V.S.Laxman 112 not out.

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