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?