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Why “mis-matches” in Tests threaten the future of the format

CRICKET-ANT-WIS-BAN
The big move up from facing LOI bowling to Test bowling is still a lot to handle for most Bangladeshi batsmen
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Modified 06 Jul 2018
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43 all out: this is all Bangladesh could manage against in the first innings of their Test match against West Indies at North Stand in Antigua. They continue to lag behind the hosts with a considerable margin in the game and are likely to suffer a massive loss against Jason Holder and Co.

These two teams are ranked number 8 and 9 in the ICC rankings and thus, you might have expected a closer contest between them.

However, following this particular game just reconfirms the irrelevance of ICC rankings: Bangladesh simply aren’t adept to handle quality fast bowling on lively pitches in Test cricket. Moreover, they do not possess a bowling attack that can exploit such conditions in the longest format of the game. 

Before you point it out, yes, every team has had batting collapses once in a while. But when you start seeing too many of these pointless one-sided Test matches, the quality of the format itself begins to deteriorate.Bangladesh’s defeat comes a few weeks after Afghanistan fell to a gigantic defeat against India in their maiden Test. The result was always going to be in India's favour on the momentous occasion of Afghanistan’s induction into Test cricket, but history is not going to judge Afghanistan batsmen’s complete ineptitude against Test quality bowling with any tender feelings.

This problem arises when we look at the impressive limited-over prowess of countries like Afghanistan or Bangladesh, and start to believe that they have the pedigree to do equally well in Test cricket.

However, the same players who seem skilled in the T20 or ODI format do not play any real first-class cricket to improve their Test skills. They might compete a bit in home conditions, but away from home, they can be embarrassing to watch.

It’s true that most teams struggle away from home these days, but the heavyweights at least they manage to compete in singular sessions. Bear in mind that a Test match can last for up to 5-days, which makes this ongoing one-sided contest even more farcical.

Everyone wants to bat for the underdog, it sounds noble to give them a gig against the big names, but these teams can’t make real progress playing these “mis-matches”. They may even get demoralised from getting thrashed over and over.

The problem is not with granting Test status to new teams; they deserve to play as many Tests as they require to get a stronghold in the format. However, host cricketing boards need to plan these games better so as to ensure they remain competitive and in the spirit of Test cricket.

You don’t need an official two-tier system, just a little bit of scheduling awareness. If FIFA pitted India against Germany in an international fixture, it will make for nothing but a lopsided competition.

Some of you may argue that Bangladesh players will learn from the exposure they get from these games and only get better once they realise the areas they are falling short on. However, that is not the case. They will go back from these Tests and shift their focus immediately on the upcoming limited over assignments they have on their plates.

Even India was a Test cricket minnow once, but, the players back then played a lot of First class cricket. After defeats, these players went back and worked primarily on honing Test cricket skills. These days, the biggest aspiration for most of these up-and-coming players is to play in the IPL or Big Bash League. Test cricket isn’t a priority for them anymore, which means they simply aren’t working enough on the skills required to be consistent in the format.

At the end of the day, we have to accept that even if Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game for players, they get their livelihoods elsewhere, in playing T20 leagues. When it comes to a choice between your pocket or your passion, most people tend to pick the former.

Every cricket fan wants more countries playing international cricket, but I don’t think Test cricket might essentially be the route to make the game more inclusive. I don’t mind if there are just eight or even fewer teams playing Test cricket.

The calendar just doesn’t have space now to adjust so many nations across so many formats over the year.

Published 06 Jul 2018
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