From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.33 :: NO.32 :: Aug. 12, 2010
The second Test at Colombo was a nightmare for the bowlers as batsmen plundered runs to their hearts' content all through the five days. In as much as the players are forced to be innovative due to the demands of the various formats, the administrators need to adopt different strategies to preserve all the three formats of the game.
The traditional form of the game is making a desperate bid to exist and at this point in time, the powers that be would do well to get their priorities right. The accent should be on making Test cricket interesting and one of the options is to encourage curators to prepare result-oriented pitches.
Instead a lot of theories are put forth to make changes that will supposedly make Test matches interesting for the public. There is no doubting the sincerity of the administrators in their pursuit to keep the game interesting and simultaneously ensuring that the revenues keep soaring. But there comes a time when the existence of the game takes precedence over the greenbacks.
Now seems to be the time for the ICC to change their stand and realise that Test cricket needs better surfaces to even make the public think of watching a day of a Test match. There is no hope at all for Test matches to survive if the pitches are absolutely flat and devoid of any response like the one at the SSC.
Of course, the batsmen needed to apply themselves to put up runs and one can argue till kingdom come that Test cricket requires skilful bowlers to get wickets.
However, one must remember that the modern day cricketers are given an overdose of the restrictive format (shorter versions of the game) with Test matches also forming a part of an international series.
The bowlers of both sides, India and Sri Lanka, toiled in vain. What with the pitch holding firm, the result was a forgone conclusion even at the end of the second day!
It would have required a very poor display from India for a result to be achieved and I am sure the bowlers would prefer to forget this game in a hurry. There was a glimmer of hope for Sri Lanka on the third morning but the resolute partnership between Tendulkar and Raina put paid to their hopes.
The master batsman displayed the hunger, fitness and determination of a debutant like Raina and worked hard to notch up a double century. Suresh Raina could not have asked for a better set of circumstances to be eased into Test cricket and he deserves the credit for grabbing his opportunity with both hands.
The Sri Lankan skipper suggested that the pitches should be more responsive but hastened to add the situation may not change due to the financial aspects as there is a lot at stake.
It is rather difficult to understand how the television companies will benefit if the viewer-ship dwindles when Test cricket offers too predictable a spectacle. The remarkable feature of Test cricket is the uncertainty that it throws up when two sides are playing on a reasonably good track. We do have one-sided affairs as well on decent tracks like it happened in England where Pakistan lost by a huge margin.
Whether flat tracks are contributing to boring draws or whether lesser quality bowlers make decent tracks appear absolutely plumb is akin to arguing which came first — the chicken or the egg. Quite recently scientists claimed that the chicken came first but the answer to the conundrum that Test cricket is facing today is eluding the administrators and it will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to crack the puzzle.
Talking of puzzles, Krish Srikkanth and his colleagues have serious problems as the Indian bowling line up does look below par in the absence of Zaheer Khan. And with Harbhajan Singh looking off the boil, it is difficult to see India winning a Test match as getting 20 wickets seems an uphill task for Dhoni and his boys. While the Test match at SSC was doomed to be a draw since the very start due to the nature of the pitch, the limitations of the Indian side cannot be ignored.
Ojha seems to be the typical modern bowler in the sense that he is restrictive at best and he still has a long way to go before one can regard him as a frontline Test match spinner. He is young and there is no doubt that spinners mature late but the point is that a spinner should be able to hit the right areas on a consistent basis when he is playing international cricket. On that score both Harbhajan for all his experience and Ojha failed in the second Test at the SSC.
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