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Daniel Brigham: Roads to ruin for Test matches

November 24th, 2009 by Daniel Brigham in International, Test cricket, Twenty20

What better remedy to transport rage this morning than walking into the office and finding India v Sri Lanka on TV. Armpits, mind the gaps and loud Americans melted away into the prospect of watching a high-quality, absorbing Test match. Then I saw the score. 320 for 1. Bugger. That’ll be a draw then. Transport rage, make way for pitch rage.

The Romanising of pitches is the biggest threat to Test cricket’s appeal and, while it’s a pretty universal thing, nowhere is this more dangerous than in India. Like Bob Dylan discovering electric guitars, India’s kinetic relationship with Twenty20 has transformed that country’s public’s taste and preferences for cricket.

While millions of Indians reject Twenty20, the message is clear from the BCCI: Twenty20 good, Test matches bad. Where India goes, the rest of the cricketing world follows. So, just when you need an exciting Test series in India, what happens? The pitches look like they’ve been rolled over by Obelix.

Since 2005, India have played 22 home Tests (not including the current match). There have been 20 first- and second-innings scores of 400+, 10 scores of 500+, five scores of 600+ and, in the first Test of this series, Sri Lanka scored the first total over 700. Of those 22 matches, 10 were drawn.

India v Sri Lanka should be one of the great Test series. No Paul Collingwood, Marcus North or Charl Langeveldt for these two teams: they are built on flair, mystery and elegance. It’s Brazil v Spain, Federer v Nadal.

Yet you wouldn’t ask or want Brazil to take on Spain at Hackney Marshes. On these Indian pitches the pleasure of watching Mendis v Sehwag and Muralitharan v Tendulkar turns into watching Ronnie Irani bowling left-handed to Don Bradman with a tennis ball. Simply, with pitches like that, Test cricket is ceasing to be sport. There needs to be a contest for that.

There are still great Test series. But too many are becoming carbon copies of England’s last tour to the West Indies. Just a series of throw-downs. And who wants to watch that?

Daniel Brigham is assistant editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in International, Test cricket, Twenty20 | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Daniel Brigham: Roads to ruin for Test matches”

  1.   Chandra says:

    Some bit of research on TV ratings in India will help in coming up with sensible analysis.

  2.   Daniel Brigham says:

    Are you saying the Indian public are big fans of bore-draws on bore-pitches?

  3.   Hofstadter says:

    And after all that, India won. Brigham, meet Murphy (aka. Sod) …

  4.   Daniel Brigham says:

    Damn. I was hoping no one would notice that little fact …

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