What do you really imagine when you are watching a game of Test cricket? Or what is it that makes you cringe, makes you want to say that this should be the sight. Fast bowler like Akhtar, Lee, Steyn marking their run up and getting ready to shoot into the batsman, while the slips and the gully all in readiness. The crowd getting all pumped up and is behind the bowler. And the contest begins. No one likes to see things getting started on a dull note. All the hype, all the pressure, all the adrenaline just dries up if this sight is not there. That’s how Test Cricket is supposed to be. With the India-England Test series, India-Australia Test series, the Ashes, we have seen some phenomenal Test cricket. And the entire credit goes to the pitches.
There’s no point in having a batsmen friendly track in a Test match. That’s how you lose the audience. And there has been a lot of debate around the quality of batting in Test cricket these days and how in the earlier days, the batsmen had better techniques. And that is not true. The technique changes from time to time. With the modern day cricket in place, the batsmen have to adjust themselves in such a way that they are able to play all the three formats of the game. The scores are getting bigger in the shorter version of the game and getting lower in the longer format of the game, both are good for the future of cricket.
And it has started to happen in India as well. If it isn’t, it should. And the current Indian bowling line up backed by Bumrah, Shami, Ishant need not be afraid of the paced tracked anymore. So it’s over dependency on the spin is no more, and that’s the way to have a fearless cricket show on the ground. And the crowd loves it. Not that spin does not have any value of its own. But that should not come into play on the first day of a Test match. Then it loses all the shine. If it’s a fourth day, then the test match is just a perfect game. That’s how it has been created. That’s what the true purpose of a Test match is. Starting with some brutal pace, then the pacers creating patches and marks for the spinners to come into the picture.
But if it’s spin on the first day, or if it favors the batsmen and the first innings score climb up to 500-600, then it just gets boring. Most Indians feel offensive when pace tracks are favored in a Test game, and they argue that nothing wrong with a spin friendly track in the subcontinent. If this stubborn attitude of confining oneself to the traditional way of doing things does not go away, then you cannot attract crowd in the Test matches. It’s already boiling temperatures in India and you are scoring 600 runs, then who’s going to sit all day to watch that stuff. But people may stick there, if there’s some fast paced Test match going on. Just like it happens in England, Australia, South Africa. And it gets difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff as well. When pitches are bowler friendly, only the best batsmen are able to find a way out.
Without the audience, no sport can thrive for long. And for that to happen, India have to make changes to its pitches. And there should not be too many cities involved in a Test series. Just a few fixed stadiums should be selected. Bangalore, Kolkata, Mohali, Mumbai, Delhi, Dharamshala. There are a selected few in Australia and England. That is the way to establish a culture of Test cricket. The crowd gets familiarized and the rivalries are set based on the grounds. All these things are not imitation of the west, but that’s how Test cricket can attract more and more people in India. It is an age of fast paced cricket. People don’t just want sport, they want entertainment. So you have to keep the Test cricket in line with the shorter format of the game. And the only way to do that is to add pace to the track. Scores need to come down in India. All these changes have to be introduced. Playing your game, the way you have played before, with the aid of spinners is not going to add that refreshment to the Test cricket anymore. And earlier India did not have the quality paced attack. Now we have one of the best line up of fast bowlers in the world. So it’s big time India start thinking about all these aspects, and some sincere effects are made in promoting Test cricket.