ON THE BOUNDARY Tony Becca
Maybe some day, for a few days, we may see Test matches, playing in different countries at the same time under the same rules - something which will make the game the same for everyone involved.
I have been dreaming about this for some time now, and last week, while searching the Internet, I came upon a wonderful article, written for Cricinfo by Mark Nicholas, former captain of Hampshire and currently cricket presenter in England and Australia.
The article, "Save our game before it's too late", looked at the game and the many problems affecting its full development.
It looked at cricket's three versions, it looked at empty stadiums at Test matches, it looked at reasonable crowds at 50-over matches, it looked at big crowds at T20 matches, and it looked at a player like Kieron Pollard playing no Test matches, little first-class cricket, plenty one-day cricket, and earning a lot of money playing cricket.
According to cricketers the world over, Test cricket is the best form of cricket. Pollard, by Test cricket's standard, is not rated among the best, but he is one of the wealthiest men in cricket.
With the ICC defending the status of Test cricket and considering it to be the best in terms of skill, endurance, etcetera, etcetera, it is strange that players earn so much money in the shorter version.
The article also looked at cricket as a sport and noted that whereas the ICC, publicly at least, maintains its support for Test cricket in the general scheme of things, it has encouraged the glut of one-day cricket, so much so that while there is more cricket these days, one-day cricket, 50 overs and T20, far out-strip Test cricket.
In fact, while the economic climate has changed, and changes must be expected and should be expected, the more T20 cricket grows, the more Test cricket shrinks.
Gone are the days when Test matches were generally five matches per series accompanied by streams of first-class matches. It is now two, or three, sometimes four Test matches with five Test matches reserved for England versus Australia.
Nicholas sees it as plain money-grabbing, and as important as money is, I totally agree with him.
Nicholas has set out some things which need to be done if cricket, as the people know it, and as they love it, is to survive.
Cricket is a game, it is no different from other games, and although it needs to change with the times, some of the time, especially in a world driven by commerce, in order to survive, it does not need to change all that it stands for.
According to Nicholas, and many, many more, cricket is more than a sport, it is a game of life, and it is a legacy.
Cricket, for example, is like golf, and those who love golf will always love it, although it is a long, slow game. It is four days for the majors and other tour events, but big events, like the US Open and the British Open, have remained popular for over 100 years.
The problem with cricket is that every time someone looks at a game of cricket and sees one man less in the ground, the first thing that man thinks about is to change something about how the game is played.
No one, at least not enough people at the top, seem to believe stars will fill out a ground and therefore they fail to spend enough time to address the business of finding stars, of building and grooming stars.
To Nicholas, the skills are necessary and they are what made the game so appealing. "They are the foundation of the enterprise that makes the short game so appealing."
To Nicholas, rhythm, application and concentration, patience and the quiet interludes, aggression and excitement are also what made the game so compelling.
Cricket, according to Nicholas, is an important part of civilisation. You cannot buy it, and you cannot sell it.
Some of the things to do, according to Nicholas, are to play Test matches in major centres where access is straightforward and people are present, drop ticket prices for adults in poor countries and allow school children free admission, do something about the slow over rates, put Test cricket back on free-to-air television, and in 50-over cricket, there should be fewer fielding restrictions and no restrictions on the bowlers - just as it is with the batsmen.
If I were to add some things of my own, they would be: play two first-class matches, three T20 matches, and three or five Test matches in a series, and I would use 50-over cricket, or simple no-restrictions one-day cricket, to attract people to the game and play it everywhere cricket is played for enjoyment.
On top of that, I would make the rules really international where all teams would have to play under the same rules, and I would not change the rules as often as the ICC does, or put up with a situation where a batsman, for example, is ruled out in one match in one country and not out in another match in another country.