Can Day-Night Tests resolve the upheaval caused by Twenty20 cricket?
We are in the middle of a Twenty20 run. The World T20 has just concluded in Sri Lanka and the Champions League Twenty20 tournament featuring the leading clubs is currently on in South Africa. As we saw in the WT20, the shortest format is no longer just a slugfest. Teams now plot how to go about their batting without losing early wickets, and the success of this ‘stoop to conquer’ approach particularly worked for Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli. Batsmen also plan which bowler to take on and at which point in the innings, the scientific approach adding to the charm of watching the format.
The rapid expansion of Twenty20 has left many worried how badly it would impact Test cricket going forward, although the International Cricket Council has constantly given assurances that the five-day format remained its biggest priority. Many young players have been attracted to the limited overs formats, mainly due to the money involved and the instant fame it brings, but the really talented have sworn their strongest allegiance to Test cricket.
Caribbean batsman Marlon Samuels declared he wants to be known as a top flight Test player even while receiving his man-of-the-match award after turning the WT20 final against Sri Lanka on its head. Cricket Australia have showed where their priorities lie, ordering the injury-prone Shane Watson to return home after playing the group games for Sydney Sixers in the CLT20. Australia, gearing up for a Test series against South Africa, want Watson to be fully fit and ready, after he missed the last season due to injury.
At home, Yuvraj Singh has made a big statement by scoring a superb double century for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy semifinal against Central. The player, having successfully battled cancer and missed almost a year of international cricket, is determined to return to the Test team for next month’s home series against England and make a mark there, filling the No. 6 slot.
The growth of Twenty20 cricket shows it has to be taken seriously by all. But while the ICC and others connected to cricket bemoan the lack of crowds to watch Tests, does it really mean cricket lovers have given up on the classical format? Yes, sports lovers have become more picky and turn their backs on contests that are not of a certain standard, but the support for quality Test cricket is alive though fewer people attend Tests, especially in the sub-continent. One felt the spontaneous celebrations after West Indies won in Sri Lanka was also in a way fans goading the Caribbean side to rediscover their Test best. The one way to galvanise Test cricket will be to introduce day-night matches quickly. Although various trials are on, night Tests are needed to bring in new fans and keep the older ones intact.
By N Ananthanarayanan