Raman Column: Prevention is better than cure

With the touring sides failing miserably to adapt and face the challenges in alien conditions, of late results in Test cricket are almost one-sided.

Australia's Josh Hazlewood celebrates after dismissing Kraigg Brathwaite of the West Indies in the Hobart Test. Australia won the match by an innings and 212.runs. Such lopsided contests have greatly undermined the five-day game.   -  AP

The biggest challenge for the administrators in cricket now is to preserve “Test cricket” which is still considered by many as the ultimate version of the game. In order to attract more interest from the public, the administrators have launched the day-night Tests. However, it will boil down to the quality of cricket that is on offer for the public to throng to the stadia. With the touring sides failing miserably to adapt and face the challenges in alien conditions, of late results in Test cricket are almost one-sided. The collapse of South Africa in India and the West Indies in Australia are cases in point. So, the question is, “is it a case of packaging Test cricket better or is it a case of the quality of cricket that needs to get better”?

The administrators can package Test cricket charmingly enough up to a point but unless the modern day cricketers can last the distance in Test cricket, the end product will suffer regardless however attractively it is presented. If the trend of premature conclusions in Test cricket continues, the bigger issue is the retention of interest of the broadcasters as they are the ones who will take a huge hit if the Test matches are completed in three days. Huge sums of money are generated through television rights and the broadcasters need Test matches to last all five days to give them a chance to achieve some return on their investment. A string of three-day results in Test cricket may deter the broadcasters from telecasting that particular format, a move that will percolate down to the entire financial dynamics of the game.

Since commerce is a major driving force in any sport, aspects that can throw a wrench into it need to be addressed without any ado or delay. Like a former West Indies captain points out, not many in today’s cricketing world are keen on Test cricket as nothing worthwhile is gained from it except personal glory. Passion and glory are words that are uttered but what really drives the game today and the players more often than not is the economics. One is living in a fool’s paradise if he fails to understand that the mindset is different today due to the options available. Talking of finances, I do believe that the payment structure needs to be redesigned in that the match fee for a Test match needs to be at least thrice that of an ODI. Of course, it is the shorter format that generates the revenue in more ways than one but as far as the administrators are concerned it is about allocation of funds.

The IPL apart, international cricketers who play in the shorter formats of the game for their country end up making more than those who play only Tests, in terms of match fees. This is enough in some ways to encourage players to drift towards specialising in the shorter formats and who can blame them if they choose the lucrative path? If the younger lot doesn’t develop enough skills by ignoring the longer format, then the net result will be that Test cricket will suffer in every respect. Imagine a scenario where Murali Vijay starts throwing his bat to get into the shorter formats, as there is more to be gained there financially. Team India will lose a solid performer in Test cricket, which will, by extension, affect the team’s performance as well. In as much as the players need to adapt and strike a balance both in terms of cricket and financial security, the administrators need to put their thinking caps on to nudge players towards Test cricket. If a direct method is unsuccessful, then alternate methods need to be employed, failing which the very existence of the traditional format of the game can be in jeopardy. It is better to take stock and plug the gaps before the damage is done. As they say prevention is better than cure.