Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Why I Love Test Cricket

Posted in Cricket by Amit Paranjape on December 21, 2009

In this era of instant gratification and short attention spans, it’s no wonder that the quicker forms of the cricket game: T20 and ODIs are gaining more popularity over Test Cricket. In fact, T20 seems to be doing to ODIs, what ODIs did to Test Cricket a couple of decades back.

At the outset let me be clear that I love all forms of the game. Cricket is such a wonderful sport that each format has its unique flavors. Each version places its own unique sets of demands and challenges on the players. It’s like having to make a choice between great fast-food snacks vs. a gastronomic filling multi-course meal. You want both!

Still, I think the younger generation is increasingly being pulled away from the mothership – Test Cricket. Hence I am going to ‘bat’ for this classic version in this blog. Cricket purists have used various attributes to compare Test Cricket: ‘Fine Wine’, ‘Classical Music’, etc. While I agree with most of these comparisons, I will use more direct factors to highlight why I love Test Cricket so much. Note – many of these factors discussed below are applicable to varying degrees to the other versions of the game as well.

1. Mental Game

Test Cricket is as much played in the mind, as it is played on the field. From subtle field placement changes, to more direct bowling changes…from resisting the temptation of going after a wide ball to playing a few attacking shots to send a message. And body language also plays a big role as well. Each team is trying to guess what the other team is thinking about and planning. Verbal chatter is also an important part of these mind games, though it is being increasingly ‘policed’ by the authorities.

These subtle mind games are very interesting. And when two traditional rivals are playing like India-Pakistan or England-Australia, these mind games reach a new level. The crowd joins in as well. One of my favorite books on cricket is Sunil Gavaskar’s ‘Sunny Days’. Chronicling his early career through 1976 (when all International Cricket was pretty much Test Cricket), this book provides great insights into the mind games and planning & strategy associated with classic Test Matches.

2. Planning And Strategy

Test Cricket is a lot about Planning and Strategy. Literally like chess moves, decisions are thought through and made many steps in advance. Strategies are created by the team think tank at the beginning of each series/match/day and then revised as things progress. Often individual strategies are made to tackle individual bowlers and batsmen. These strategies and their implementations are like following chess grandmasters or battlefield generals in action!

Probably the most infamous of this pre-series strategy planning process dates back to the 1932 England tour of Australia – the famed ‘Bodyline Tour’. England Captain Douglas Jardine came up with his this new ‘strategy’ to curb the Australian run-machine, the great Donald Bradman.

3. Batting Defense

To a casual follower of the game, a dull defensive batting display is often very boring. On the other hand, if you understand the pitch conditions, the match situation and other factors – this defensive battle can also get very engrossing. Good defense is as skillful as playing a good attacking game. And remember, for a batsman, one mistake and you are out!

Rahul Dravid epitomizes this batting defense display and has numerous amazing innings to his credit. It’s unfortunate that these innings don’t get the mass appeal of a Sehwag or a Tendulkar innings. 

4. Battle Of Attrition

Whether in bowling or in batting, as well as in fielding, Test Cricket is often a game of attrition. Its all about who has more staying power – mentally and physically. Who has the ability to maintain their quality and standards of performance after many hours in the game? It’s all about who blinks first, and commits that initial mistake. It could be lazy shot…could be bad over…or a dropped catch.

5. Physical Staying Power

Ultimately, cricket like any physical sport, requires good athletes. However, the athletic attributes of a Test Player are often more akin to a Marathon Runner, as opposed to a 100 Meter sprinter. Dean Jones battling extreme dehydration and cramps in the oppressive Chennai Heat and Humidity in the 1987 Historic Tie Test, and going on to score a Double-Hundred is just amazing. He was rushed to the hospital from the cricket game and came back!

6. The ‘Old’ Ball Dynamics

In the shorter versions of the game, the variations in the ball don’t make a big difference. Comparatively, this adds a whole new twist to a Test Match innings. Once the ball is 10-15 overs old, it stops swinging and spinners can utilize it better. But post 40-50 overs, the ‘reverse swing’ comes into picture.  And post 80 overs, the new ball is an option, which brings in another strategic decision element.

7. The Pitch Factor

The cricket pitch (along with the environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, wind, etc.) is probably the most important external variable in the game. And it is dynamic! In the shorter version – the changes are not drastic. But in a 5 day game, often times the pitch characteristics are drastically different from day 1 to day 5. This adds a very interesting new twist to the game. Winning the toss is very important. As the Pitch evolves, different batting and bowling skills become important and relevant. Just think of the variability that Test Pitches bring to the table – whether they are the bouncy wickets of Australia or South Africa, the batsman and spinners friendly wickets in the Indian Sub-Continent, or the Greenish wickets in England or New Zealand. There are so many games where winning the toss and deciding the right upfront use of the pitch (for bowling or batting) have been the primary deciding factor on who comes out at the top.

8.  Bowler Advantages

The shorter versions of the games are increasingly becoming more and more batsman friendly. The poor bowlers are primarily reduced to containing the batsman. The rules are also going against them. However in a Test Match, the bowlers can dominate – especially when you have bowler friendly pitches. The sight of a Dennis Lillee/Jeff Thompson bowling with 9 Slips in the 1970s(click link for the image), is probably gone for ever now!

9. Intense Concentration

As mentioned earlier, test Cricket is a game of attrition. As a fielder, a batsman or a bowler, you have to often wait for hours for the other party to make a mistake. Conversely you could concentrate all day, and that one lapse can lead to a dropped catch, or a clean-bowled! The concentration power exhibited by the Test Stalwarts is just amazing.

10. Television Commentary

Last, but not the least – the Test Cricket TV Commentary when done by good commentators can be extremely engrossing. Even when the game is moving slowly, the discussions, the statistics, the anecdotes, and the humor – can all be quite entertaining.

11 Responses

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  1. Upamanyu said, on December 21, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Well i agree that test cricket puts forth a real test for batsmen but come on!! 5 days of time is something no one has today!! Besides test cricket is not something you can watch for a while; enjoy then go to work! Either you watch the whole game, or there’s no fun in it…

  2. Milind said, on December 21, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Hi amit,

    Agree with most of your points. I can think of Couple of other pts that make test cricket interesing,

    #1 In test cricket a team has a chance to come back even if they have couple of bad sessions or bad days. Some of the greatest matches are comeback stories..

    #2 Radio commentary.

    Milind

  3. Amit Paranjape said, on December 21, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    You don’t need to watch Test Cricket all 5 days. Even watching one session can be engrossing, and you can catch-up with the ‘macro-picture’ (to use an economics analogy) at the end of the day.

    Though as I said, Test Cricket is not for the casual observer who doesn’t understand (or doesn’t want to focus on) on the subtleties of the game.

  4. Vibhushan said, on December 21, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Amazing account Amit. Watching test cricket is so much fun, and it can never come any closer to T20 generation. One has to build the whole innings, game changes every session, and real class emerges. Thanks for this post, loved it.

  5. Vivek Tuljapurkar said, on December 22, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Another very enjoyable article, Amit.

    I also grew up on cricket like most Indians. And I still love it and enjoy it just as much. The part I dislike most about cricket, is that sometimes the match – whether Test, ODI, or T-20 – can be decided by the coin toss. Plus some of the umpiring decisions, most importantly LBW, can be egregiously incorrect. Cricket should be made as fair as possible; the Gods of Cricket should do whatever they can to take out the element of chance and umpiring errors.

  6. Amit Paranjape said, on December 22, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Milind,Vibhushan,Vivek: Thanks for the feedback.

    Vivek: The TV Umpire system is being increasingly used. (have you seen the experimental review of LBWs that they are doing in the current SA-Eng series? It was also tested out in the India-SL series of 2008?) Some things need to be ironed out(will take some time…), but this is definitely heading in the right direction.

    Amit

  7. Sam said, on December 22, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I also love test cricket much more than any other form of cricket.

    One more point which is always debated about test cricket is about the “batting technique”! Its good that you haven’t harped on “technique” part here. A lot of people claim that test cricket is about technique and 1-day and T20 are not. But there are so many unorthodox players dominating test cricket – starting with all time great Viv richards, Javed Miyandad, DeSilva to Chanderpaul and our own Sehwag. For every great orthodox player, you will find a test-match winner unorthodox player – inventing his own “technique”.

  8. Bhooshan said, on December 22, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I love cricket and all fellow cricket lovers.
    It is a game of chance a lot more than people realize and individual glories rein supreme. Players talk about team spirit but your are really on your own when you are holding, fielding or hitting a ball.
    thanks for such a lovely piece on test cricket.

  9. Annette D said, on January 1, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I agree with you mate. Even though we are happy with exciting 20 – 20 cricket, the true taste of cricket lies with Test cricket only. Red Ball, White dresses, Attacking fields around the batsman. I love test cricket

  10. Nikhil Ambekar said, on February 19, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Great Post Amit,

    Standard of Catching also makes test cricket exciting especially Slip cordon.Australian side of the 90s had a great slip cordon,Mark taylor,Mark waugh actually won the matches by taking amazing catches in the slip.

  11. suchin.k said, on May 19, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I am a firm believer that test cricket is the true essence of cricket. It is indeed in test cricket one can see a 10 wicket haul or a triple hundred scored by various players. Even though 20-20 is entertaining and most of them are nail biting finishes nothin can compare itself to a day 5 victory of a test match like the second test of the 2006-07 ashes in australia. From players point of view it lies in every players mind to beat a prior record not much can be achieved without test cricket and the amount of attention it gets in the present generation.


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