India are in the driving seat as regards the path to qualify for the World Test Championship final to be held in England in 2021. This trophy has a significant place in the history of cricket as this will be the first time that a Test team will be anointed and recognized as the World Champion.
The recent series victory against Bangladesh has put India way ahead in the points table. With a two-match series each, away from home against New Zealand and Australia and a five-Test match series at home versus England, India look like a certainty to be playing the final at Lords. Being the number one side at present, India looks very confident in all the departments of the game. A victorious Indian side puts a smile not only on the faces of millions of their followers but also on the faces of the sponsors whose commercial investment revolves around the success and failure of the Indian team.
Finally, world cricket did make space in their calendar for Test cricket. India hosted Bangladesh, whereas Australia and New Zealand are playing Pakistan and England respectively. West Indies too had an encounter with Afghanistan in Lucknow and the West Indian side won the match handsomely.
The one major factor which has stood out prominently in most matches has been the lack of quality and skills of many of the sides playing Test cricket. Apart from the big four — India, Australia, England and New Zealand — the cricket in the rest of the world has gone down to an abysmal level. The records in the last few years have shown that most of the matches have finished in four days or less. This truly reflects the effect that the limited-overs cricket has had on the game.
The batsmen all over the world seem to be at sea and they somehow also lack the patience to confront the conditions that prevail while playing proper cricket. One may blame the mind-set of a present cricketer in a fast-moving world, but one can also see a definite deterioration in the way they play and approach the game. The true recognition of a player is only through his performance in the conventional form of the game and that is Test cricket.
Cricketers do recognise this fact as their ultimate desire is to be successful at it. That is why one is surprised as to how the quality and standard of Test encounters have had such a steep decline.
This is the very reason that Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Babar Azam are put a notch above the rest. A good recent example of a cricketer being finally given his stripes was that of Rohit Sharma. His success as a Test opener gave a sigh of relief to his fans and followers as they can now with pride finally eulogize him. David Warner has done the same for his fans in Australia after his return to Test cricket and these two exciting batsmen are now branded as a part of the elite lot as well.
The recent Day/Night Test match in Kolkata between India and Bangladesh was a rousing success. The crowds were lured into the ground and with Sourav Ganguly, the present BCCI President, leaving no stone unturned, he was instrumental in creating just the right aura to glamourize Test cricket in his home town.
Unfortunately, the Bangladesh team did not have the fire power to match the strong, studded Indian outfit and so the match became a one-sided affair. The experimental pink ball did have a bit of exciting tale as regards its behaviour because of the change in conditions during the course of the match. The misty evening atmosphere, as one gathers, did have an issue as regards sighting the ball clearly at dusk. This is an area that requires to be taken seriously as the modern day batsman seems to somehow lack the basic skills of evading bouncers.
This still bewilders me as during our playing days with the fastest of the bowlers bowling not only in the match but also in the nets, sans helmet, very few of us ever got hit smack on the head the way one has seen in the last two decades. The concussion replacement rule is a joke and the quicker the ICC cricket committee erases it from their rule book, the better it will be for Test cricket. The skills and abilities of two cricketers can never be compared and so replacing one for the other is quite ridiculous.
The recent results of Test matches are showing how teams and individuals have lost the plot playing it. The bowlers are having a field day bowling to batsmen who seem to lack the technique and patience to play either pace, swing or spin, in even slightly helpful conditions for the bowler.
Sunil Gavaskar has repeatedly spoken on air as to how batsmen should give the first hour to the bowlers and then the rest of the hours will automatically belong to the batsman. But, unfortunately, not many have paid heed to his advice. This reminds one of the famous quote, “that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing field of Eton” by the Duke of Wellington after England won the war against Napoleon’s French army. The reason he said that was, because of the English quality of education that had made his men into good brave soldiers.
Test teams are losing matches because their cricketers lack the character, quality and the capability to fight against all odds. A weak soldier or a cricketer may survive battles, but to win the war or a Test series, present cricketers need to become outstanding soldiers. Only then will they be able to withstand the hard knocks of Test cricket and be victorious.