If ICC has to combat the growing popularity of T20, it will have to be proactive, writes Makarand Waingankar
Every few years, there is time for retrospection and reinvention in a sport.
Chris Gayle actually said out loud what others were whispering. As a captain of the national team, to say that he would prefer T20 cricket to Test cricket must have been an embarrassment to the West Indies board.
There is a definite need to look at the structure and duration to play Test cricket. Whether one likes it or not, T20 has come to stay. It allows smart cricketers to grow, teaches how to adapt to situations and forces batsmen and bowlers to work on their versatility.
The second Test between England and West Indies played in cold English weather of May, at The Riverside makes one think whether flat pitches for Test cricket are killing fun or pitches are prepared to ensure a minimum of thousand runs scored in a Test match.
Unless one team is weak, the other team does not score more than 500, as research of the past five years of Test cricket indicates.
Why then have a Test match of 450 overs played on a flat track and kill the game. Why can’t the ICC allow 125 overs for the first innings and 100 overs for the second innings as on an average no side plays more than 120 overs in a Test match.
At a time when the number of spectators is dwindling due to lack of interest in Test cricket, bifurcation of overs will make the moves of the teams more aggressive. The most important factor will be to show urgency in scoring runs without losing wickets.
The team would have to have wickets in hand to launch into attack in the last 20 overs. Bowlers will have to be aggressive especially in 90-120 over block. This will definitely make some fascinating watching.
With no restriction of overs in Test cricket, most teams tend to play safe when they bat first except Australia and India.
T20 has killed that factor. There is no safety zone in T20 and if teams could score 360 in 40 overs in T20, the least expected in a Test match is to score 500 in 125 overs.
There will not be a scene when a fielding team is going through the motion when in the 150th over a team score is 500 for three. Restriction on overs will push to get that score in 125 overs.
Make Test cricket as quick-paced and action-packed as T20 and the spectators will get to watch good, sensible and fascinating cricket. Test cricket is a test of skills and temperament.
If it has to combat the growing popularity of T20 and guard the classical ways of the game, the ICC will have to be proactive.