Let’s bat for more Tests

Test cricket needs more support and needs to be more meaningful for the interest to be sustained.

Australia’s Usman Khawaja thwarted the Pakistani bowling attack to secure a draw for his team in the first of the two Test matches in Dubai.   -  AP

Usman Khawaja’s brilliant century saved Australia from a certain defeat in the first Test against Pakistan at the Dubai Cricket Stadium. Khawaja had also got a gritty 85 in the first innings to add to the century he scored in the second and that should forever silence all those who doubted his ability to score runs in subcontinent conditions. Sure, he didn’t score many in the few innings he had in Sri Lanka, but not many others in that Australian line-up — apart from the then skipper Steve Smith — had got runs either.

There is a tendency, especially in the media of the old powers, to put some players in a bracket and Khawaja was among those who were not expected to score runs in these pitches. So when the Australians came to India early last year, Khawaja did not get a single game despite the fact that he was a left hander and would have given a different problem for the Indian spinners. Ricky Ponting had a couple of century-less tours to India and he looked clueless, especially against Harbhajan Singh, but nobody would have dared to drop him. He did get a hundred on his last tour of India but his average in India is a little over 26, which by no stretch of imagination befits a great batsman like him.

Inherent biases

The sad thing is that if a player is of a subcontinent origin and a naturalised Australian or Englishman he will be stereotyped against certain attacks and not given the same kind of opportunities as those afforded to cricketers of Aussie and English origin. Look at Mark Ramprakash, who was never given the confidence that he belonged to the English middle-order and so he was not able to transform his superb first-class record into a Test and international one. Others of English origin playing around the same time were never given any tags and so played on despite ordinary returns.

The Pakistan-Australia series is also a two-Test series just like the India-West Indies one and does little justice as there’s the likelihood that there could be a drawn series if both teams win one game each. Mind you that could happen even in a three- or a five-Test series but at least both teams have a chance to break the stalemate and try for a win.

Needs support

Test cricket needs more support and needs to be more meaningful for the interest to be sustained. As we move into the digital age with less and less concentration time for youngsters unless there is a reason to watch Test cricket they won’t watch it or if they watch at all it will be for a short time and not the whole five days as earlier. Matches hardly ever go into the fifth and final day nowadays, but it’s still interesting if there is a close competitive game.

The two-tier system for countries has been proposed and rejected especially by countries at the bottom of the rankings. But with two new Test entrants in Ireland and Afghanistan, the matches can be pretty lopsided as we have already seen.

There is a Test Championship in place and that will be interesting to see if that can appeal to the public. Every Test match becomes important in this as points will be won or lost and so no game will be taken lightly.

Promotion and relegation

If a promotion or relegation system is introduced, there could be even more context to Test matches and every Test will be competitive as teams of almost same standard will be playing against each other and there is less likelihood of one-sided matches.

Test cricket needs to be given prominence and context and that can happen only if there are full series held and not just two-Test match series.