Many people who don’t care about a Test championship have a simple and powerful argument on their side. The problem, they say, isn’t that Test matches don’t have added ‘stakes’ or context, but that there isn’t enough good Test cricket. To raise the quality, you need better pitches that equalize the contest between bat and ball and, yes, risks the prospect of a Test match ending before Day 5. This makes sense, but it raises a problem for me: are we basically saying we should drop Indian pitches?
Let me elaborate: I have come to Test cricket rather late in my fandom, and I have to say, all else equal, I’d rather watch a Test in South Africa or England rather than one in India. That’s because the rhythm of the typical Indian Test match requires a lot of patience; from what I gather, two sides bat for a long time on a placid pitch, which then markedly deteriorates so all hell breaks loose in the final sessions. This means until the spinners can get involved, others bowlers have to toil for a long time and batsmen enjoy (long) days in the sun. Now, sure, you could say I’m wrong because what I’ve just described could be an excellent Test match and adding diversity to the ways cricket is played is part of its charm. But the problem is that Indian pitches sometimes don’t deteriorate, which means two sides just bat each other into a stalemate. There is nothing worse than seeing one team pile up 500 runs, only to see the other squad match it.
Do I have this wrong? Am I describing an ‘Indian rhythm’ that doesn’t exist? And be honest: do you really prefer Indian cricket to the swinging pitches in England?
I like diversity of pitches and home town conditions. We should have a pitch break up in india. We should have extra bounce in australia. We should have a green top in NZ. That makes test cricket more interesting.
I also think diversity is what I want most. But it could be less of simply a “this is how the pitches are in country X” thing. The limitations of climate and so on will always give some level of advantage to the home team, and that’s not a bad thing, but diversity within a series adds interest in itself, and should also help develop more rounded home teams.
Test cricket is a game of adjustments – changing conditions, bowling styles, match situation – the best players are the ones that assess a situation at any point, and play (or have the ability to play) appropriately.
The diversity of conditions and pitches is definitely part of the fascination for me. However, I think I see the point you’re getting at – and I’d like to offer a similar (but inverse) perspective.
As a New Zealander, I suspect that the whole ‘First morning’ part of a test match may be more fraught with a mixture of anticipation and fear than elsewhere. I love it, but there’s always the possibility that a team will be 6 down at lunch and the ball swinging and moving all over the place. This happens elsewhere, but here the conditions are more likely to stay like that all day and we’ll be deep into the opposition batting by the end of day one.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a bad test match (some of my favourite games have been low scoring) but the idea of settling in for a few days of absorbing cricket is a hope, rather than an expectation.
It also breeds a lack of patience in our cricketers I think – bowlers who can’t just bowl a tight line in unhelpful conditions.
Agree with Mykuhl….the diversity of pitches is what makes different Test tours appetizing….though it is disappointing that recent Indian pitches don’t break up as much as they used to….
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Would suggest that one of the advantages Australia has had as a cricketing nation is a diversity of cricket pitch types. From the WACA to the SCG, from Hobart to Adelaide Oval, there are many different conditions to adapt to in even the domestic Sheffield Shield. India should definitely consider increasing pitch diversity for at least the domestic tournament.