Mon | Jun 25, 2018

Oral Tracey | Home advantage matters!

Published:Monday | May 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Windies batsman Shai Hope (centre) celebrates after scoring the winning runs during day five of the the second Test match against England at Headingley, Leeds, England, on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. The result mean the Windies claimed their first Test victory in England in 17 years.

The fact that the International Cricket Council (ICC) is even considering discussing and has gone as far as to discuss a proposal to banish the traditional spinning of the toss at the start of Test matches, shows how despondent and desperate things have become for the governors of the slowly dying longest format of the game of cricket.

Recommendations have been many and varied, but in terms practical applicability, the most noted change has been the introduction of pink ball night Test matches, which, obviously, have not yet had the expected boosting effect on the fortunes of the Test game, thus the desperate search continues with, now, this imbecilic notion of ridding the game of the toss and automatically handing the choice of first use of the pitch to the visiting team.

The main reason posited is that home teams are dominating Test match results too much. It is then being assumed that this is directly related to home territories preparing the pitches suited to the strengths of their team. The theory is that this overwhelming home advantage in Test cricket would be nullified, therefore, removing the incentive for home teams to prepare pitches the way they now do, and subsequently, reduce the significance of home advantage in Test match cricket.

 

CLUTCHING AT STRAWS

 

This is utterly nonsensical and represents another desperate clutching at the proverbial straw in the quest to save this terminally condemned format of the game. Home advantage has been a constant historical dynamic of all levels of sports and especially team sports. To seek to nullify home advantage tears away at the very fabric of competitive team sports. Maximising home advantage within the laws of the respective game has always been considered fair play. What the ICC is pondering is akin to banning loud cheering at home stadia because some teams have greater and louder home crowd support than other teams.

As far as preparing pitches to favour home teams goes, it's a dynamic that cuts both ways. Cricket, like all other team sports, is played on a home-and-away basis. The home team in a particular series can and should be allowed to prepare its pitches to favour its strengths and exploit the visiting team's weakness understanding and knowing very well that when they travel for the reciprocal fixture or series, that home team will do the same. It cuts fairly both ways.

The element of ridiculousness in this recommendation peaks at the point where some members of the ICC board have convinced themselves, or have allowed themselves to be convinced, that the extreme preparation of pitches by home teams is the reason why home teams have been winning so many Test matches of late. This does not stand to reason for the simple fact that the home team has the same 50 per cent chance of winning the toss as the away team, plus, there is no empirical data to show that home teams that set their pitches necessarily lose Test matches when

they lose the toss. This recommendation would only make sense if in addition to preparing the pitches to favour their team, home teams also went on to win all the tosses, which absolutely does not happen and will never happen.

The reality as per the founding principle of Test match cricket is that five days of cricket will provide a genuine and true test of the mental fortitude and the technical skills of one team versus another. After five days, all things remaining equal, including the weather, the better-performing team will win the Test match, whether they won or lost the toss. Those principles and that reality still hold true today despite the dwindling appeal of Test cricket. It is understood that these are indeed desperate times for Test cricket, and desperate times call for desperate measures. However, this particular recommendation is beyond desperate. It is downright stupid and ridiculous!