Sun | Jul 23, 2017

EDITORIAL - Rescuing Test cricket

Published:Tuesday | August 5, 2014 | 8:00 AM

We empathise with our Tony Becca who, in his column on Sunday, lamented the continuing diminution of Test cricket and that little effort is being made to revive this longer format of the game, whose retreat has paralleled the advance of the shorter versions of the sport.

What, however, Mr Becca does not make clear is whether the innovations he hopes for will be part of matches that continue to be played over five days, in which event its resuscitation, especially in the Caribbean, could prove extremely difficult.

The publication of Mr Becca's article coincided with the third of three matches at Kingston's Sabina Park - a legendary venue for Test match cricket - for the Jamaica Tallawahs franchise in the Caribbean Premier League's Twenty20 competition. The games had large crowds and were a great spectacle, as people have come to expect of a format of the game which, for cricket, is played at a frenetic pace.

As Mr Becca, a respected cricket correspondent, notes, bowlers, on the pain of penalty, have to bowl in a zone that makes their deliveries more likely to be hit, and boundaries have been shortened so as to encourage batsmen to go for maximum scoring shots, adding to the excitement of the game. And, unlike Test cricket, a limited-over game cannot be drawn.

He would wish, it seems, that some of these innovations be applied to Test cricket, although, if we understand Mr Becca correctly, he moans over the kind of contrived arbitrariness in T20 big-hitting, rather than the thoughtful aggression of many of the great innings in Tests, as well as the erosion of patience and the opportunity for a teasing and cerebral application of the art of bowling that makes Test matches a different kind of gladiatorial encounter. In that sense, cricket is the field version of chess.

END OF AN ERA

While we share many of Mr Becca's concerns at the seeming passing of an era, we may have to appreciate the current trajectory of cricket as the evolution of the game to fit the times. In today's globalised economics, with its competitive markets, few people can spend an entire workday, or workweek, at a cricket match. In any event, as was in evidence at the weekend at Sabina Park, cricket fans, by their trek through the turnstiles, voted with their money: in the absence of an authoritarian directive, they prefer the short form of the game.

Perhaps there is a compromise.

A decade ago, writing in this newspaper, Kevin O'Brien Chang suggested a sort of fusion of a shorter version of cricket with some of the elements of Test matches. For instance, he proposed 50-over-a-side matches, being played back to back, but with the scores of each being added together and the not-out batsman on the first day being allowed to carry on the second, therefore, being in a position to consolidate an innings. In essence, each team would have 100 overs, but broken into 25-over segments. Bowlers would be encouraged to attack by winning bonus runs for their team for wickets taken. It may be too much, at this stage, to expect Mr Chang's suggestion to be adopted by the International Cricket Council, but it should certainly be analysed and experimented with by the Jamaica Cricket Association and the West Indies Cricket Board.

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