THE International Cricket Council’s recent suggestion to reduce the traditional five-day Tests to four days has met with stiff resistance from players around the world, while purists have scoffed at the idea which they allege is being promoted for predominantly commercial reasons. The proposal will be discussed in the upcoming ICC meeting scheduled to take place in Dubai in March. Though a majority of the cricket boards have hitherto refrained from officially commenting on the proposal, Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board have emerged as strong proponents of four-day Tests. In defence of their stance, they contend that a large number of Test matches played in recent years — especially those involving young cricketing nations such as Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and a few others — have been lop-sided contests that have ended within four days. Besides, other factors such as the ICC’s increasing demand for event windows, the proliferation of T20 leagues, and the exorbitant costs of staging Test series are all said to have contributed to the proposal being put forward.
But while the ICC may have its own reasons to back four-day Tests, many former cricketers — including legendary figures like Javed Miandad, Sachin Tendulkar, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting and Virat Kohli — have raised objections to the proposed idea and termed it ‘ridiculous’. They feel that Test cricket remains the game’s best format and correctly point out that it showcases a team’s true calibre, its resilience, patience and consistency over the course of the five-day period. Curtailing the Tests in any way, they insist, could deprive the format of its romance that has been the essence of the game for over 140 years. The truth is that the ICC, the game’s world governing body, has got its priorities mixed up here. Rather than advocating four-day Tests, it should concentrate on adopting measures to strengthen the weaker teams, ensure quality pitches around the world to promote competitive games and strictly bind powerful teams like India to fulfill their cricket commitments with Pakistan that could hugely boost Test matches as a financially viable format. There are, of course, other factors the ICC needs to look at. Inclement weather affecting a session or two in matches is a common occurrence in cricket while niggling injuries could render players temporarily inactive. The traditional five-day Test allows for these eventualities rather well and allows the teams a fair chance to compensate for them.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020