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Test cricket on life support

November 11, 2008

There are two popular inferences from the recently concluded Border-Gavaskar trophy.

1. The era of Australian dominance has ended
2. The era of Indian dominance has officially begun

I could launch an attack on these inferences but will suffice to say that any inferences about dominance and the end of eras are usually proved wrong in the matter of a series or two, mostly because, believe it or not, there are more than two teams playing international cricket. What happens when England go on to beat India two-zip or when Australia thrash New Zealand? Even if other permutations happen, one can safely assume that the pecking order in sport, is not as easily re-written.

The series did not produce cricket of a quality we have come to expect of the two teams. And hence, our attention ends up on the poor levels of sportsmanship displayed by both teams. Any non-cricketing events of note are fine, as long as they only serve to initiate tabloid-frenzies. Here however, the very point of watching test cricket has been brought into question.

Slow Over Rates
It is one thing when the volatility of the match-situation has captains re-thinking their field placements every delivery, but when captains knowingly slow the game down to slow the opposition, test cricket might as well throw down its weapons before the shorter versions. The Australians had abysmal over rates right through the series. However, India’s over rate on the final morning of the series seemed maliciously slow to prevent the Aussie victory charge.


  • Enforce session minimums of 30 overs
  • Penalize teams, not with fines and suspensions in subsequent games, but in a manner that seriously hurt the offender’s prospects in that game. Add runs to the opposing team’s total by the number of shortfall overs at double the greater of the innings or session run-rate
  • e.g. If India bowled only 22 overs in the morning session and Australians scored 100 runs translating into a runrate of 4.54, add 73 runs (8 overs @ 4.54 X 2 = 9.08). See if that doesn’t gets captains to get a move on.

Negative field-placements
Innovative field-placements to induce false strokes are an integral part of good test cricket. However, when the objective is only to make the batsmen take inordinate risks to score any runs with no intent to getting them out in conventional ways, the viewers get short-changed. This is most likely to be done by teams that lead the series going into the final match.


  • Give the trailing side first-choice instead of having a coin-toss. This ensures that the team more likely to push for a result gets a chance to do so. Or better yet, alternate first picks in a series, with the first pick being given to the visiting side since the home side already has the advantage of the conditions
  • There would have to be some subjectivity on the part of the umpires to determine whether tactics being employed reduced the possibility of a result and hence should be deemed negative. One possible rule could be to limit the number of boundary-riders, which would include those at 3rd man and fine-leg

There is no doubt that if a marquee contest like India-Australia can turn into a snooze-fest, some definite steps are required to maintain the veracity of test cricket.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2008 4:31 am

    Run penalties for slow over rates are a good idea, though I guess you could say the current system is kind of working considering Ponting threw a series to avoid a 1 match ban!

    I like the idea of alternating first picks in a series, though knowing the batting order in advance could influence curators..

    A coin toss for the first test would even it up for odd-numbered series.

    Fancy a link swap to ?

  2. November 12, 2008 9:32 am

    Moses: The current system does not take real-time decisions and all penalties are handed out at the end of the game.

    Also, with first picks, I suggest letting captains have a good look at the pitch and only then pick their 11 and also decide what they want to do

    Have added your link to my blogroll. thanks!

  3. November 13, 2008 4:42 pm

    I love the idea of the run penalty but I think there will be a whole heap of people against the idea frankly.

    Then again we have a free hit in ODIs and batting teams having control over field placings so what do I know !

    Fancy a link swap mate. Adding you now 🙂

  4. November 13, 2008 5:05 pm

    Thanks Damith, 4 tests – 20 days – 60 sessions (give or take). If viewers aren’t assured of honest competition, it’s just not worth it. Hence my suggestions. Have added you on the blogroll. Cheers!

  5. November 13, 2008 6:23 pm

    Thanks mate.

    Go here to show your passion.

  6. November 14, 2008 8:35 pm

    (that name is a misnomer)
    hittingthenailonthehead would be more appropriate – honest.

    Hi guys.
    Regarding the over rates, there has to be a system where every player has a price to pay – and hit where it will hurt the most – their pockets.

    Its not just the captain – or the length of the bowler’s run-up – the sauntering attitude of some fielders when moving positions too is one of the main reasons.

    If say 10 seconds are wasted before every ball bowled, then for 70 overs that is 1/6 x 70 x 6 = 70 minutes wasted ~ an hour’s play.
    The mind bloggles, er … boggles 😀 .

    I think for every over not completed, dock 10% of match fees from EVERY player – cumulative over both innings.

    Banning only the captain is a bit harsh as well as ineffective. Hit every player – make it a joint responsibility.

  7. November 17, 2008 9:50 am

    Thanks littleindian! the current name’s ideal coz it lets me have the best of both worlds…have opinions but not be accountable for them 🙂

    i see logic in docking every player but do you really think that’d make a difference to players who’re making a gazillion times their match fees in endorsement deals and IPL appearances?

  8. Radha permalink
    March 11, 2009 11:16 pm

    I think in every test there must be a result. If there is no result, then the winner should be decided based on TOTAL runs scored in both the innings. Whoever has more runs will be winner. If there is a tie, the winner should be decided based on wickets lost etc., etc.,

    • March 12, 2009 11:08 am

      Good point Radha, the question then is should number of overs available to each team per innings be limited? Maybe 100-120 overs per innings. But it still comes down to having competitive surfaces to play on. The recent Eng-WI series showed that placid surfaces can defeat the best efforts of teams to force results.


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