And indeed, they did. Over the next hundred years, several of these challenging problems were either completely answered or partially solved. However, some of these problems remain unsolved even after a few centuries and failed attempts by great mathematicians.
At this point, you must be thinking, “Why I am reading four paragraphs of math when I signed up for cricket?”
Don’t worry. Here comes the cricket.
2021 had a fair share of its problems for cricket—The Azeem Rafiq scandals, Tim Paine’s sexting exit, Thailand women losing a spot in the World Cup due to a flawed system, Glenn Maxwell, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Tom Banton taking time off due to mental health, Quinton de Kock’s kneeling issue in the T20 World & then retiring from Test cricket at the age of 29, the dissolution of the ODI Super League, New Zealand & England pulling out of Pakistan, the Afghanistan crisis, The Hundred Vs County Cricket debate, and just a general overdose of the IPL & cricket.
For a full read on these issues, check the following articles out:
Today I propose a list of 15 problems that will keep the cricket community (ICC, administrators, and cricketers themselves) busy for the next decade.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Neither do I have any monetary reward for you. I offer possible solutions—some of them you might like. Others? Not so much. So, then what is the point of all this?
The point is to churn up debate and conversations in the cricket community so eventually some of these solutions reach the upper echelons of the cricket boards and ICC. Comment below on your thoughts and ideas. Who knows, your idea might one day change cricket altogether.
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1. Need for a Global Cricket Calendar and T20 Leagues
The Problem: How can the cricket calendar provide space to the three international formats—Test, ODI, and T20I—as well as the growing T20 leagues?
These days, cricket is here, there, and everywhere. Today, we have the BPL, PSL, IPL, Global T20 Canda, T20 Vitality Blast, The Hundred, CPL, Shpageeza Cricket League, T10 League, SLPL, MSL, Super Smash, and the Big Bash running from January to December.
Cricket will hit its ceiling in the next 5-10 years. With new T20 leagues growing around the world, IPL becoming a 10-team venture (twice a year IPL also proposed), T10 leagues, The Hundred, a ‘Ninety-90 Bash’, & other retired professional leagues adding to the calendar, what is the limit?
And don’t get me wrong. Leagues are not necessarily a bad thing—more opportunities for Associate cricketers, professional life for players who cannot make their international XIs, and more match practice & auditions to make comeback cases, but it does threaten the existence of international cricket as a whole.
Two-Three month reservation for the pinnacle of international cricket (T20/ODI WC, WTC Final), without T20 leagues during this period.
Reinstatement of the Champions League as the center of the T20 yearly calendar.
Enforcement of maximum of 3 leagues per year for a nationally contracted player.
Eventually, cricket may need to adopt the soccer (European football) model.
International games reserved only for ODI World Cup qualification, WTC matches, and some friendlies/warm-ups. As many have suggested, bilateral T20Is should be scrapped totally.
Players contracted by year-long leagues. They take leave to play a couple of international games every now and then until the World Cup, which dominates the summer every couple of years.
Experimental formats like T10 cricket and ‘Ninety-90’ Bash should end. Who knows, we might be playing a Super Over league at this rate.
The Indian Premier League and the BCCI holds a bit of influence over the cricket finances. If they reject any of the calendar limits, that may the end of any negotiations even though all the other cricketing nations might agree.
2. Decisiveness and Pathways on Olympics
The Problem: The ICC on cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics—Yes, No, maybe so?
For too long, cricket has dabbled with the idea of being in the Olympics and are closer than ever in making a decision. The 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games will include a women’s 8-team T20 tournament. USA Cricket hopes for the inclusion of cricket in the 2028 LA Olympics and the 2032 Brisbane Olympics being ICC’s long-term goal.
However, what format will it be? T10? T20? If it is T10, does that mean cricket will have a fourth international format? How will qualification work? At this point, there are way too many questions and zero details on a path forward.
If cricket is serious about being in the Olympics, the administrators need to get their acts together. One or two meetings a year just doesn’t cut it.
It is worth a try regardless of the format. Ideally T20 cricket, starting from the 2028 LA Olympics (building upon USA’s Major League Cricket) would be great for the game.
The format of soccer’s 4 group of 4 is a good template (16 teams in the Olympics instead of 32 in the FIFA World Cup to keep the WC as the pinnacle product). If the T20I WC expands to 16-24 teams (both men/women) in the next decade, the Olympics can start with 8-12 teams with the best 2-3 teams qualifying from each region.
Not every country has cricketing infrastructure. To create a consistent following, cricket at Olympics can only succeed if it is at every iteration. Unless cricket stadiums are built in every nation on earth, the ICC will have some complications in the early years at the Olympics.
Another tricky slope to navigate is the West Indies. Since each nation like Jamaica and Barbados will play the Olympics as its own nation, those teams will be significantly weaker in strength than the West Indies cricket team.
3. Expansion of the Women’s Game and Need for WIPL
The Problem: Women’s cricket is now mainstream, but is the structure in place to take the game forward?
Between 2017- March 2020, women’s cricket enjoyed a sort of golden era. The quality of cricket and broadcast in the 2017 ODI World Cup brought new fans to the game, and a record 86,174 attendance at the MCG for the 2020 WT20 Final proved that women’s cricket was on the rise.
However, the pandemic has exposed several gaps in the women’s game. For almost 12 months, women’s international cricket was largely halted around the world while the men’s IPL happened twice. Several smaller boards like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have not seen much gameplay. Although India have played a few internationals, there does not seem to be a plan for women’s domestic cricket. And a request for the women’s IPL is falling on deaf ears.
Add to that, the crisis faced by Thailand, one of the rising teams in women’s cricket. When omicron abruptly cancelled the qualifying tournament, it was tough to not see them qualify for the ODI World Cup despite being #1 in the group since their ODIs were not given ODI status.
Surely the structure and expansion in women’s cricket needs more thought, structure, and investment.
In order for the multi-format series to become the standard, more Test cricket and 3-day practice matches have to become the norm, which will take time.
4. Planned T20 Exposure for Cricket’s Growth
The Problem: Roadmap and resource management needed for the rapid growth of T20I cricket in emerging markets.
While women’s cricket and the Olympics are avenues to cricket’s global expansion, the ICC is utilizing T20 cricket for the spread of the game. In 2018, T20I status was granted to every cricket team (As of January 2022, 91 men’s teams and 53 women’s teams are in the T20I rankings). Further, a regional qualifier structure was provided for future T20 World Cups, which will be held every two years.
All this is good, but how are the resources going to be divided among these nations? Will they get professional international stadiums, broadcasting rights, DRS, and facilities? Will they be able to host tournaments? (like the earlier ICC Knockout tournaments). Step in the right direction, but a lot of work to do in the decade ahead.
Just like a major Asia Cup tournament, each continent should set up their own major tournament (separate from the regional qualifiers). This will ensure that there is a systematic ranking/room to grow for the newer teams in each continent, and they are not here just to make up the numbers.
If teams ranked at the very bottom continue to lose, they might leave the game altogether. Some sort of incentive needs to be provided to these lower ranked newer cricketing nations.
II. Standard of Cricket
5. Standardization of Pitches in Test Match Cricket
The Problem: How Can We Balance Pitches to Minimize Boring Draws and 2-Day Tests?
In the 2000s, stellar middle orders and flat pitches combined for some high scoring matches and boring draws. Over the last 5-10 years, a great crop of fast bowlers (and spinners in the subcontinent) combined with pitches suited to the home side has made 2-day and 3-day Tests a recurring event.
Keep the pitches suited to home teams with 4-Day Tests (more on this later)
Preparing pitches suited to overseas conditions in domestic cricket (example: More spin tracks – weather permitting – in England’s county circuit) or encouraging/funding spin from an age group level (How India progressively became a better fast bowling nation, England can do that in the long run).
ICC standardize the pitches across the globe.
The beauty of Test cricket is in its variety. If the batters cannot overcome the challenge, so be it. That is life.
6. The Toss
The Problem: Is the toss leading to too many predictable results?
It was clear in the IPL and the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE that teams winning the toss and batting second had a higher probability of winning.
The beauty of the toss is in the uncertainty, and when things start to get predictable, innovation becomes the need of the hour.
Tosses impact T20Is and Test cricket more than ODIs. So, one thought is to start experimenting with various ideas (listed below and more) in T20 leagues or domestic 4-day cricket, while leaving ODI cricket the same as it is now.
Each team alternates decision to bat/bowl in a series. (If an odd number, last match is decided by a coin toss…)
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Cricket is already complicated, why make it more complicated?
7. Bat Vs Ball Debate
The Problem: The Eternal Debate—How Can We better balance bat vs ball advantage?
This is the Riemann Hypothesis of cricket. A seemingly intuitive problem that is always up for discussion, has never been solved, and is the unproven underlying assumption that is the basis of strategy for the rest of cricket.
In limited overs cricket, the bat dominates (bigger bats, flat pitches, stronger players, etc.). In Test cricket over the last decade, the ball has dominated.
I have a truly marvelous solution to this, but the margins are too narrow to contain for my answer [Fermat’s Last Theorem].
Just kidding! Here they are:
Abolish wide behind leg side in limited overs. Small margins really do hurt the bowlers.
In Test cricket, one more review to the batting side instead of the bowling side.
In limited overs, one bowler can bowl a couple of overs more than the maximum limit of 10 overs (ODI) or 4 overs (T20I)
As players get physically stronger and technology increases, the balance will always remain one side or another. However, as spinners have shown in the middle overs in a T20 or fast bowlers during the death with the slower balls, adaptation of skill is required, not so much the mechanics of the bat and ball.
III. Survival of Test & ODI Cricket
8. Disparity Between Level of Performance in Test Cricket
The Problem: How can the gap between top and mid-tiered teams be reduced?
The gap between top and mid-tiered Test nations is gradually eroding confidence in Test cricket. Even though some spectacular matches in the last five years have reinvigorated Test cricket, gaps in skill level between the top sides and mid-tiered/bottom ranked teams makes for a boring viewing on the other end of the spectrum.
Social media’s pendulum swings from “Test cricket is the best format” claims to “Is Test cricket dying?” every few months.
Case and point: Men’s Ashes 2021-2022. Except for Jonny Bairstow’s 4th Test, there was absolutely no resistance. There have been several subsequent calls for the 5-Test Ashes to be reduced to a 3 or 4 match affair. If England, who play 10-15 Tests a year, are not properly utilizing resources and are behind the golden standard, how can we expect the likes of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan to compete?
Regularized international schedule should dominate bilateral agreements. Australia’s refusal to host Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and now Afghanistan (for other reasons) does not help smaller teams get the experience. The more the Top 4 countries play the mid-tiered teams, the better they will get in the long run.
Prioritizing domestic funding over white ball funding (County cricket vs white ball dominance)
Abolishment of two-Test series (The smaller countries only get to play 2 Tests while the Big 3 and South Africa gets 4-5 matches per series).
Relegation-Promotion system (details outlined below) in three brackets: Bracket A (#1-6), Bracket B (#7-12), and Bracket C (non-Test playing nations)
Money, money, money. Even the World Test Champions like New Zealand cannot afford to host more than two Tests due to finances. Ideally, we would like an equal distribution of Test match cricket, but if there are no finances, there is no cricket.
9. Associate nations, the ODI Super League, and the Expansion of Test Cricket
The Problem: Lack of clarity is hurting the survival of Associate nations, the backbone of global cricket.
The ODI Super League provided Ireland and Netherlands much needed game time against the top eight teams. Ireland actually has done a pretty decent job and Netherlands’ cricketers received much needed stability, but the inexplicable cancellation of the ODI Super League has stumped many. The World Test Championship has flaws, but the ODI Super League was a step in the right direction.
Yes, T20I is the right vehicle for growth in globalization of cricket, but should teams like Ireland be alienated, who have invested in ODI cricket and want to play Test cricket?
The ICC suggested that they may trial teams like Scotland and Netherlands into Test cricket as a temporary Test status. That might be a good move if it actually happens, but here are some other solutions:
Touring Associate and new Test nations before embarking on a 4-5 Test tour (playing ODIs/T20Is vs Scotland/Netherlands & 1-off Test vs Ireland before a series in England, vs Afghanistan before India, vs PNG before NZ & Aus, Namibia/Zimbabwe vs SA). This is happening more and more with Ireland’s progress, but it is only the beginning.
Revival of the Tri-Series? Similar idea as above, but to reduce logistic and travel issues, two full members plus an Associate nation for an ODI tri-series in a common location.
Mandatory 1-2 Associate players per squad per T20 league. Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Tim David, and Sandeep Lamichanne are great templates. These players will be a boon for the franchises, not a burden.
10. 4-Day Tests for Men, 5-Day Tests for Women?
The Problem: Making Test cricket accessible for spectators without jeopardizing the game.
The Decision Review System (DRS) and pink-ball day-night Tests have now been adopted as major innovations in the game which had resistance in the early days. In the age of technology and innovation, cricket has to find ways to re-invent itself and stay relevant every 5-10 years.
One such suggestion is 4-day Tests (plus a 5th day for rain affected games) for men’s cricket, while expanding to 5-day Tests in women’s cricket, especially since they do not play as many Tests.
Just like D/N Tests were tested one Test per series every now and then, similarly one of the Tests can be scheduled as a 4-day game (and vice-versa for women)
Draws. One of the major drivers for 5-matches in women’s Tests are the number of draws. This forces teams to declare early (even when they are trailing) and enforce follow-on more often. If men’s game introduces 4-day Tests, then strategies will similarly begin to change and/or draws will increase.
11. Fixes to the World Test Championship
The Problem: Test matches are now better contextualized, but a lot is still left to be desired in achieving a better system.
We have already provided several solutions for World Test Champions in our earlier articles (shown below), so here is a summary:
Number of Tests Played is uneven: In the first WTC cycle, England played 21 Tests, while West Indies, South Africa, and New Zealand played 11 each. Marquee series like Ashes, Border-Gavaskar, Basil D’Oliveira Trophy, etc. are 4-5 Tests each while SL & NZ only play 2 Tests regularly.
Currently no distinction is made for Home/Away advantage: Bangladesh winning in NZ, West Indies winning in Bangladesh, India winning in Australia, or Australia drawing in England should be worth more than home wins.
All-or-Nothing System:Test matches occur over 5 days or a max-of-15 sessions. One session can have a huge impact on the series. Yet, the points are awarded on an all-or-nothing basis.
No system is every going to be perfect, but at least more of an attempt can be made. One of the other pitfalls is the pandemic. This has severely restricted travels between countries and longer, more straining quarantine rules. Hence, even more uneven number of Tests are begin played.
IV. Other Concerns
12. Mental Health Support & Overkill of Cricket
The Problem: Mental Health Awareness A Necessity in Today’s sport
Non-stop cricket alongside heavy quarantine is changing the commitments of a professional cricketer. Itis no longer feasible to play three international formats, travel around the world, away from family, and still have a sane mental health.
Marcus Trescothick, Glenn Maxwell, and Ben Stokes are some of the many high-profile players who have taken time off the game to focus on their health. They have paved a way for many others in the future to follow. The real question is, does the cricket fraternity have the support each player needs and deserves?
Support Groups/Staff, Paid Leave
Separate teams for separate formats (Maximum of two formats per player)
Mental health is still looked as taboo in many cultures. Even though awareness is increasing, some players may still keep things to themselves, which is detrimental.
In addition to mental health, physical health is also a concern as more research is done on concussions in general. Concussion substitutes were a great innovation to the game, but it took the death of Phillip Hughes for the radical change. Let us make sure to be proactive before any such incidents. Injury prevention and player health should be duly monitored.
13. Spot Fixing and Associate Nations
The Problem: Match-Fixing for the Next Decade
Brendan Taylor’s story illustrates that even in the year 2022, match fixing & spot-fixing is still an issue cricket needs to be careful against. After the spot fixing that emerged from Pakistan’s tour of England in 2010 and the growth of T20 leagues, there is a lot more education and maturity in ICC’s anti-corruption unit.
However, teams like Zimbabwe and Associate nations, whose players do not earn a survivable income or cash flow from leagues, are easy targets for corruptors (as seen in the UAE). So the nature of match fixing might have changed since the 1990s, but it is still a problem that threatens the core fabric of the sport in one way or another.
The structure of the ICC anti-corruption unit and education before every major tournament shows that cricket has already matured in most of this regard. The real responsibility now lies on the players for self-reporting such approaches.
Healthy compensation for Associate players can also prevent such instances.
In the age of technology, new forms of corruption might appear (cyberattacks, ransomwares, NFTs?) ICC needs to be proactive and take actions earlier.
The Problem: ICC and cricket boards’ philosophical stand on the Afghanistan women’s team and the status of the men’s team.
Post the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in September, cricket’s stakeholders have been sending mixed messages. Australia rescinded their invitation to Afghanistan for a Test match due to a lack of a women’s team/Taliban’s stance on women. However, requirement for a women’s team was waived off when Afghanistan became a Full member four years ago.
The ICC allowed Afghanistan in the 2021 T20 World Cup at UAE and many Afghani players are contracted around the world despite the drama. On the other hand, Zimbabwe was not allowed to qualify for the 2019 ODI World Cup due to crisis in the Zimbabwean government.
Why are players/ sports’ teams penalized for government interference? Why is different approach taken against different countries? Who sets the precedent?
Afghanistan is a cricket-loving country, and we should not stop its growth despite political tensions. They have now qualified for their 2nd U-19 semi-finals in the last three attempts. Let the men’s team continue to blossom while promoting cricket in age levels for women’s cricket if situation allows.
Each country might have a different political relationship with Afghanistan, which may mean a conflict of interest. As a byproduct, the relationship between other cricket boards can get strained.
15. Player Behavior
Problem: Similar Player Behavorial Issues, Different Consequences
As players gain more power over administrators due to financial security and unions, there have been some side-effects. Players have been acting up a lot lately.
Shakib Al Hasan’s antics (not much backlash), Ollie Robinson’s tweets (socially alienated), Alex Hales & Joe Clarke (not selected in the national side), Sri Lanka’s players in England (suspended for six months), Steven Smith, David Warner, & Cameron Bancroft’s sandpaper gate ball tampering scandal (banned by Cricket Australia for 1 year), Netherlands’ ball tampering (4 matches ICC), Quinton de Kock defying teammates (kneeling and not playing) and Virat Kohli shouting at the stumps (no consequence).
Digging up old tweets should be removed as a cultural practice.
For major offences, a uniform code of conduct that applies to every player regardless of the cricket board they are playing under.
An impartial body assigned to monitor and judge player behavior for uniform convictions
Each circumstance is different. Uniform offences might not be ideal. On the other hand, ICC vs national boards hierarchy will become muddled if ICC centralizes power.
This is not the end. More avenues and ideas to explore for sure. Please bring in your comments. Would love to hear YOUR opinion. Thanks everyone for reading ❤ Anyway, time to go the duel or swim across the shores of France…
*Thank You Credit: In conversation with my friend, Vandit. Thanks for listening to my ideas and engaging in meaningful discussion.
Looking at the events over the past few months—stepping down from RCB captaincy, then giving up T20I leadership to focus on the 2023 ODI World Cup and World Test Championship, and finally relinquishing ODI captaincy altogether to Rohit Sharma—Test captaincy resignation was bound to happen.
We just could not have guessed it would be so soon, especially after the recent success of the Indian Test team.
Today we look at 5 ways how Virat Kohli’s Test captaincy transformed Indian cricket and what holds in his career ahead.
Although India won matches all around, they failed to win a series in SA or Australia (they did win historic series against WI 2006 & England 2007 though).
Phase 2 – The Horror
In the six years of Phase 2, India only achieved 6 victories & 10 draws (out of 32 total). (StatsGuru)
3 Vs West Indies (Kingston 2011, North Sound 2016, Gros Islet 2016)
2 Vs Sri Lanka (both Colombo 2015)
1 vs England (Lord’s 2014)
The 8-0 (4-0 vs England followed by 4-0 Vs Australia) will be forever etched as a horror phase for Indian Test cricket. Whoever watched those two tours, realize the depths of despair Indian cricket was in. (I personally watched every single ball of that 2011 England series…Except for Dravid’s 3 tons, it was a pretty dreadful experience)
When Virat Kohli took over as captain in 2014 from MS Dhoni, India was ranked the #7 Test team in the world. Captain Virat Kohli made an impact right away with his twin tons in Adelaide, the second of which was a heartbreaker.
In order to go for the win, Kohli was prepared to lose. This was the learning phase.
Just three and half years between July 2017 & December 2021, team India won 14 matches away & 3 draws (out of 31 total). (StatsGuru)
9 SENA Victories
2 Vs South Africa (Johannesburg 2018, Centurion 2021)
3 Vs England (Nottingham 2018, Lord’s 2021, Oval 2021)
4 Vs Australia (Adelaide 2018, Melbourne 2018 & 2020, Brisbane 2021)
2 Vs West Indies (North Sound 2019, Kingston 2019)
3 Vs Sri Lanka (Galle, Colombo, Pallekele 2017)
2020-2021 season alone had 5 SENA victories, almost as many as the 2000s put together! And this does not even include the great Vihari-Ashwin draw at Sydney.
Although the 1-2 loss against South Africa dented Kohli’s legacy, the fact that India were favorites in a country they had never won is a testament to his leadership. From #7 to #1 for 4-5 years? Not bad, I say (Watch India getting the ICC Test mace as Shastri interviews Kohli)
The most widely recognized contribution of captain Virat Kohli is the development of a fast-bowling culture in Indian cricket.
If you watched 83, the movie based on India’s 1983 World Cup winning campaign under captain Kapil Dev, India’s first true fast bowling allrounder. In the story, you can see that India were not expected to build fast bowlers. There was no proper system, zero support staff, and the infrastructure was lacking.
Over the years, India started to develop some medium pacers—Venkatesh Prasad, Javagal Srinath, (most prominently) Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Agarkar, and Balaji. Although they all had good seasons, except Zaheer Khan, none lasted for more than 5 years.
After the second coming of ‘unlucky’ Ishant Sharma after his 7-74 at Lord’s 2014, the story changed. Kohli recognized that for India to win overseas, they had to take 20 wickets. For that to happen in the spicy & bouncy pitches, he & coach Ravi Shastri were willing to give complete freedom to his fast bowlers, who were then developed under bowling coach Bharat Arun (and mentored by Zaheer Khan early in their careers or in respective IPL teams).
Fast forward five years, Ishant Sharma cannot even find a place in the XI in the lost series against South Africa. Why? Well, because…
Jasprit Bumrah is the best bowler in the world. Mohammad Shami is the king of second innings reverse swing. Umesh Yadav is as good as it gets for a fast bowler in Indian conditions. Mohammad Siraj is a revelation, and Shardul Thakur takes 5-fers and breaks crucial partnerships for breakfast.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Naveep Saini, Deepak Chahar, and T. Natarajan cannot even make the team, while Hashal Patel, Prasidh Krishna, Chetan Sakariya & other domestic giants and IPL stars keep the backbone of the pipeline strong.
In today’s world, if you make the Indian Test squad as a fast bowler, you are the best in the world, let alone India.
Test cricket has been in a self-described existential crisis for about two decades now. For any business venture to succeed, money is needed. To raise money, you need customers.
In the cricketing world, customers are spectators & the spectators have been rapidly dwindling. Oh yeah, and where does cricket get most of its customers? That is right, India.
Indian cricket has been at the heart of cricket’s financial & global growth but with the horror second phase (2011-2016) combined with the expansion of the IPL, Test cricket was at threat.
In comes Virat Kohli.
Interviews after interviews, post-match presentations after post-match presentations, Kohli reiterated his commitment to Test cricket. When the World Test Championship would be under scanner, Kohli would come out in its support.
The wins overseas and watching India play a positive brand of cricket definitely has brought new fans of Test cricket and has re-energized skeptical viewers of the game.
When Kohli was captain, two of his personality traits swept the whole team— (1) Obsession with fitness, and (2) Emotions galore.
With improved sporting infrastructure and rise of T20 cricket, the standards of cricket have improved by leaps and bounds over the past decades.
However, it is captain Virat Kohli who ensured that fitness is an expectation, not just a premium add-on bonus at the international level. He set the example by prioritizing fitness himself and giving his all in the field.
Test cricket is a momentum-based game and Kohli’s momentum shifts with his emotions.
Many a time, Kohli’s enthusiasm lifted India in the field and his encouragement helped the fast bowler channel their best game. Sledging no longer hurt India as they fought fire with fire. His attitude and aggression are often criticized, but as a captain, he usually brought the best in his team.
So, we can say that captain Virat Kohli made the Indian Test team stronger—both physically and mentally.
In limited overs cricket, the constant chopping and changing by both the captain and the selection committee was detrimental to India’s progress. In Test cricket, though, he managed his players rather well.
Although Ajinkya Rahane & Cheteshwar Pujara were out of form for extended periods of time, he continuously backed his senior players. Pujara’s contribution in Australia speaks for himself and Rahane played the occasional match winning innings abroad.
Some may have thought that R Ashwin’s career might have been over a couple of years ago, but credit to both Ashwin’s reinvention & Kohli’s backing, Ashwin is back.
Finally, by mid-2021 Kohli’s machinery was set. The team had a template that they played with, and the players fulfilled their roles in the large machinery created by Kohli-Shastri-Arun-support staff. This allowed the likes of Axar Patel, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Washington Sundar—aka the next generation of Indian cricket—to seamlessly fit in the system and contribute in match-winning ways.
The stats are crystal clear. With 40 wins out of 68 Tests with a win-loss ratio of 2.352, he is not only India’s best Test captain but in the league of Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting, and Steve Waugh.
Captain Virat Kohli might have called it a day, but his mark on Indian Team will be felt for a very, very long time.
Anyway, wipe off your tears. It is not the end till the end.
Kohli the batter still has time and will have the final laugh.
As acclaimed twentieth century writer Khalil Gibran once remarked, “Exaggeration is truth that has lost its temper.”
India’s improbable victory in the 4th Test sent social media into frenzy. There were claims of it being the ‘greatest Test team’ going around or the ‘best Indian Test team.’ Although there is subtle merit to these claims, I argue that this is just an over exaggeration of the ground reality.
How Good Are Team India?
There is no doubt that the Indian cricket team has flourished in the 21st century. With a thriving cricketing culture, robust recruitment setup throughout the country, monetary power in the hands of the BCCI with the advent of the IPL, and a prospering India A system, India has the greatest depth and resources available.
The rise of Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, and Ishan Khan across formats in less than six months attests to this claim.
India came back from 0-1 to seal the Border-Gavaskar series 2-1. Stories galore and the legend of this series will carry in the minds of fans forever. Similarly, a defeat in the third Test against England did not faze India. In the 4th Test, a 99-run deficit was overcome via valiant century by Rohit Sharma and memorable contributions in both innings by Shardul Thakur.
To give you an idea how far India have come along—This is India’s 4th victory in Australia & England since December (and 8th in Australia, England, South Africa since 2018). In the decade before, India’s only moments of glory in England & Australia were Headingly 2002, Adelaide 2003, England series 2007, and Perth 2008 (coincidentally Rahul Dravid contributing with 148, 233 & 72*, captain, and 93). So this 2-1 series victory (almost) should hold well with the Indian fans, especially after the suffering endured in the 2010s.
This Indian team is good. Really good. They have the spirit to come back from any circumstance, and they just never give up. The attitude instilled by Ravi Shastri-Virat Kohli is evident in the body language of each and every player.
However, is this team the best? I do not think so.
Collapse A Day Does Not Keep The Doctor Away
Team India is brilliant at comebacks, but why is there a need of comebacks in the first place?
The 2000s Australia team set the benchmark for Test greatness. Did you ever hear them coming from dire circumstances? Well, not much because they were so dominant, a comeback was not even necessary.
The same is true for the current World Test Championship winner, the New Zealand cricket team. When they win, they win emphatically.
If India are to instill their greatness in cricketing folklore, they must replicate their home dominance away as well.
Current Batting Side Does Not Fire In Unison
KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and Ajinkya Rahane are all good batters individually, but they have rarely fired in unison.
When the top order bats at its best, the middle order collapses. When Pujara-Pant come together, the rest of the batters have already gone to the pavilion. Kohli is not back at his best yet and Rahane seems to have fallen off the charts altogether.
Even in the horrendous tours of 2011 and 2014, I do not remember performances like 36/9 or 78/10, let alone two. The batting collapses occur too frequently to be regarded as a modern great. What made the Sehwag-Dravid-Sachin-Laxman-Ganguly era great was their consistent overseas batting performances without having the caliber of fast bowlers at their disposals in the nets to practice with.
Now India finally has the bowling attack to take 20 wickets consistently, but a batting line up that is not even close.
Greatest Indian Bowling Attack
The reason India is succeeding away from home can be attributed to two factors: (1) comparatively lower standard of opposition, and (2) fast bowling unit.
Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur provide regular breakthroughs while Jadeja and Ashwin can play both as wicket-taking options and chief controller depending on the conditions.
Since the South Africa tour of 2018, Indian bowlers have taken all 20 wickets by pace on numerous occasions. Injury replacements are readily available as well.
So is India Good, Bad, or Just Okay?
The bowling attack? The best in their nation’s history. Their batting? Eh. Not so hot.
India might have one of the best line ups on paper but are definitely not the best Test team going around. Or at least just not performing to their full potential yet. The flaws in India’s team performance combined with miraculous comebacks and recency bias actually amplify the degree of their quality. India are so bad sometimes that it brings out the best in the team. Still a long way to go achieve dominance.
In other words, India are so bad that they are actually good. Think about it.
We bring to you the list of best Test matches over the past four years. Thrilling finishes galore! Who said Test matches are boring?
by Nitesh Mathur, 08/27/2021
West Indies’ 1-wicket victory against Pakistan and India’s comeback at Lord’s have added another couple of great matches in our memory banks. We have seen some exhilarating Test cricket in the past couple of years.
If there was ever any doubt on the quality of Test cricket, here are 18 matches that have revived Test cricket in the past 4 years.
Match Summary: Pakistan: 376 & 174/8 declared; West Indies: 247 & 202
Player of the Match: Roston Chase
After 95 overs of resistance, with only 7 balls to go for a valiant draw, Shannon Gabriel heaves Yasir Shah and gets bowled. Roston Chase stranded on 101* (239) after batting for an epic 366 minutes. Strategic stroke or brain fade from Gabriel?
In their first innings, Australia had collapsed from 161-1 to 202-10. In the second innings, they had 462 runs to chase or 140 overs to bat. And 140 overs they batted. The man of the hour was Usman Khawaja – 85 (175) & 141 (302), batting for a total of 766 minutes (around 13 hours) to give Australia one of their most savored draws.
“It was assumed that Australia would lose that Test match. What Australia was looking for…was a test of character” – Amazon Prime The Test
This was Australia’s first true moral victory since Steve Smith & David Warner were banned. Usman Khawaja had never truly solidified his place in the Australian XI, but this innings ensured his career would always be remembered due to this legendary knock.
Match Summary: South Africa: 235 & 259; Sri Lanka: 191 & 304/9
Player of the Match: Kusal Perera
In a mammoth chase of 304, Sri Lanka were struggling at 110/5. What followed was a knock for the ages. Kusal Perera hit a miraculous 153* (200) with 12 sixes & 5 fours. The last wicket partnership between Perera & Vishwa Fernando was 78*, with only 6* (27) coming from Fernando’s bat.
“He’s done it! He absolutely does it. One of the greatest see from a Sri Lankan outside Sri Lanka…What a historical day at Durban.” Watch the winning moment here, a contender for the greatest Test match innings of all time.
Sri Lanka go on to win the series 2-0. First time anAsian team won a Test series in South Africa.
Match Summary: Australia: 179 & 246; England: 67 & 362/9
Player of the Match: Ben Stokes
Despite being a wonderful series to watch all around, the thunder was stolen by Ben Stokes’ 135*, Jack Leach’s glasses, Nathan Lyon’s run out opportunity, and Tim Paine’s missed DRS review. A 76* (62) partnership for the final wicket. Oohs & Aahs. Reverse sweeps, scoops, and hoicks. Just a great day to be a cricket fan. One of the greatest innings of all time.
“Cut away. Cut away for 4. What an innings. What a player. Take a bow Ben Stokes. The Ashes well and truly alive because of one cricketer & that cricketer is Benjamin Stokes.” (Nasser Hussain) Entire Day 5 minute highlights
This series had so many moments. Stuart Broad 23 wickets & dismissed Warner 7 times. Steve Smith’s legendary masterclass was breathtaking. 774 runs, 3 tons, 3 fifties, best of 211, 110.57 average. Jofra Archer’s Test debut, Smith’s concussion, and Marnus Labuschagne’s entrance as cricket’s first concussion substitute—353 runs, 4 fifties at 51.00. Not a bad start, I say. Ideal beginning for the World Test Championship, a 2-2 Ashes series.
Match Summary: England: 204 & 313; Sri Lanka: 318 & 200/6
Player of the Match: Shannon Gabriel
It was a Test match that went all the way to session 3 of Day 5, which became a common theme for Test matches post the COVID break. After Shannon Gabriel’s 9-fer & #1 all-round Jason Holder had given West Indies the advantage, they characteristically lost it on the final day. The Windies had collapsed for 27/3 in a chase of 200. Then an inspirational 95 by Jermaine Blackwood 2.0 brought WI back with the supporting cast of a hobbling John Campbell & the engine room—Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, and Jason Holder.
Commentary/Winning Moment (None other than than Ian Bishop)
“Victory for the West Indies. A most significant moment for Jason Holder and his team. Great credit to their skill, their commitment. The West Indian people and world credit owes them a great debt…” Commentary Video
The coronavirus had hit and ravaged the world. Worldwide lockdown was in-effect and sports had closed its doors for months. Thanks to the West Indies & England cricket boards, players, the support staff, & essential works, cricket made a comeback via bio-bubbles.
Match Summary: New Zealand: 431 & 180/5 declared; Pakistan: 318 & 200/6
Player of the Match: Kane Williamson
With a chase of 373 at hand in tough New Zealand conditions, Pakistan were 4/2 at tea on Day 4.One of those one-sided home victories for New Zealand again? Not this time. Not with Fawad Alam. With support from the ever dependable trio Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan, and Faheed Ashraf, Alam scored 102over 6 and a half hours. Yet a Pakistan-esque collapsed followed after surviving 123.3 overs. Pakistan lost with only 4.4 overs to go. What a jumping catch by Santner as well for the last wicke.t. The drama.
“[Catch it] Oh he’s done it. He’s pulled a hander! Mitchell Santner has done it! Mitchell Santner has finished the game for New Zealand. Look at the scenes!” Commentary Video
Last match of the decade. Turning point for Test cricket. Brilliant rearguard effort despite the loss. And Fawad Alam. What a story. Dropped after 3 Tests despite scoring a 168 on debut. Criticized for scoring hard, ugly runs with a weird stance. Left out for a decade. . Grinded in domestic cricket. Runs after runs. Till he could be ignored no more. Has now scored 4 hundreds since his comeback. Patience is, indeed, the key to success.
India had won the 2018 series 2-1 on the back of Pujara’s toil – 521 (1258). Could they repeat the magic in 2021 with Warner & Smith?
It began with the 36 All-Out at Adelaide. Spectacular bowling performance from Australia. Then Rahane’s century & calm captaincy rejuvenated India at Melbourne. Show of resilience and immense mental strength followed from Vihari-Ashwin after the Pujara-Pant show to secure a draw in Sydney. Finally the young brigade breached the Gabba Fortress. Shubman Gill, Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, and Rishabh Pant the stars.
“Pujara, to a younger generation is just a curiosity. As the game moves more and more towards T20, which is the modern savior of our game, the word resilience starts to go out because there is no time for resilience. ” – Harsha Bhogle on Pujara in Amazon Prime’s The Test
The 2018 victory was the first instance an Asian team has won a Test series in Australia. The 2021 series? Arguably the best Test series since Ashes 2005—This series had everything—bowling excellence, centuries, youngsters, experience, banter, sledging, draws, collapses, and chases. Even with a so-called injured ‘third string,’ squad, whenever India were down, they came back with new hope & stars.
Match Summary: Sri Lanka: 135 & 359; England: 421 & 76/3
Player of the Match: Joe Root
The Joe Root Vs Lasith Embuldeniya series. On paper, does not look too close, but the 1st Test was actually engrossing to watch. In chase of 74, England were 14/3 with Joe Root run out (the only way he can get out these days). Jonny Bairstow & Dan Lawrence took England home but the tension was high. 4 innings, 446 runs for Root, 15 wickets for Embuldeniya. Individual brilliance.
“Massive, massive. This is massive. England in a spot of bother.” (After Root’s dismissal) Commentary Video
Start of Root’s magical year; English fan stranded in Galle cheers from the fort; England won the series 2-0 to extend their overseas winning streak to 5 after they had won 3-1 in South Africa earlier. They would win another in Chennai before Axar Patel decimated England’s subcontinental dreams. (England had also won the 2018 tour of Sri Lanka 3-0 in this same timeframe).
Match Summary: Bangladesh: 430 & 223/8 declared; West Indies: 259 & 395/7
Player of the Match: Kyle Mayers
Imagine that you are not sending your 1st XI to Bangladesh, a spin-heavy nation that has had an impeccable record in the past 5 years. No expectations before hand.Bangladesh would have been happy with their effort with centuries from Mehidy Hasan Miraz & Mominul Haque. They even declared in the second innings.
A successful chase of 395 runs followed in 127.3 overs with twodebutants, Kyle Mayers (40 & 210*) & Nkrumah Bonner (86)sealing it for the West Indies with a remarkable partnership of 216 runs. Fourth innings match-winning double century on debut in the subcontinent. Wow.
Commentary/Winning Moment (Ian Bishop Again)
“A win to warm the hearts of every West Indian wherever you are in the world! New heroes have emerged from the ashes..” Commentary Video
West Indies won the series 2-0 in Bangladesh with a depleted squad. The greatest chase of all-time?
Match Summary: India: 217 & 170; New Zealand: 249 & 140/2
Player of the Match: Kyle Jamieson
Under difficult batting conditions and rain all around, both teams fought it out till the very end. The WTC Final was expected to be a boring draw two rains and bad light. Instead, it became a thriller that went deep into Day 6, final session. With a chase of 139, Latham-Conway had departed to spin trial by R Ashwin. Reversed DRS decision, maidens, and a dropped catch later. At 44/2, anything could have happened the way Ashwin was bowling. When the time came, the experienced duo Kane Williamson & Ross Taylor came together, soaked in the pressure, and after took New Zealand home safely.
Match Summary: Pakistan: 217 & 203; West Indies: 253 & 168/9
Player of the Match: Jayden Seales
168 target. West Indies collapse to 16/3. After a classic 55 by Jermaine Blackwood, West Indies slip to 114/7. Pakistan needed 3 wickets. West Indies 54 runs. Then Kemar Roach came to the party and had to the take the responsibility of ‘batting with the tail.‘. Roach’s 30* and a valiant 17-run partnership between the mentor-protege pair, Roach-Jayden Seales guided West Indies to a memorable 1-wicket victory.
Match Summary: India: 217 & 203; England: 253 & 168/9
Player of the Match: KL Rahul
Day 5, All Results possible. England Favorites. India, not known for their tailender run-machines, unleash Mohammad Shami (56*) & Jasprit Bumrah (34*). 89* partnership as India declared with 2 sessions to go. Then, the pacers fire in unison as India wreck England for 120.
“Unbelievable performance from India. They were up against it. England were favorites coming into Day 5. Kohli an his men have turned it all around.” Commentary Video
Victory at Lord’s. Another display of fighting it out and not giving up for Team India. Australia tour was not a fluke. This Indian team is on the rise.
Match Summary:India 345 & 234/7 declared; New Zealand 296 & 165/9
Player of the Match: Shreyas Iyer
By Tea on Day 5, the main batters for New Zealand—Latham, Williamson, and Taylor had all departed. Somerville’s 36 (125) delayed what seemed inevitable for India. Little did India know that they would run into Test debutant Rachin (Rahul + Sachin) Ravindra—18* (91) & Ajaz Patel 2* (29) to hold out for a memorable draw.Add bad light to the drama as well.
“For a long period of time, New Zealand have struggled to find wins or draws in this country. There is a lot of respect between these two sides. Lot of respect between the skippers.” Commentary Video
Match Summary:New Zealand 328 & 169; Bangladesh 458 & 42/2
Player of the Match: Ebadot Hossain
After Bangladesh took lead in the first innings, but Will Young-Ross Taylor had taken NZ to 136/2. In the next hour, 136/3, 136/4, 136/5, 154/6, 160/7, 160/8, 161/9, 169/10. The hour that changed it all feat Ebadot Hossain.
“There it is! Finds the gap and Bangladesh have finally conquered the World Test Champions. And have their first ever Test victory over New Zealand, home or away. It has taken 16 attempts against New Zealand but historic ground has now been broken.” Commentary Video
The greatest comeback of all time? World Test Champions, undefeated at home for a few years, against a team not known for winning overseas. The best part of all? Bangladesh dominated the entire Test and new heroes emerging—Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Mominul Haque, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Liton Das, Mehdiy Hasan Miraz, Ebadot Hossain. No Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, & Mahmudullah, and Mushfiqur Rahim only scoring 12 & 5.
Match Summary:Australia 416/8 declared & 265/6 declared; England 294 & 270/9
Player of the Match: Usman Khawaja
England 3-0 down in the Ashes series. Very likely the series could have become 5-0. First innings, Australia scored 400+, courtesy Khawaja’s comeback century. England came out with a positive attitude, with Jonny Bairstow recording England’s first ton of the series. Khawaja followed with another ton, which set the Test beautifully for Day 5, fifth session. Last batter to go, Labuschagne and Steve Smith bowling leggies in tandem. Against Stuart Broad & jimmy Anderson. Mouthwatering stuff.
“Last ball…He’s done it! He’s survived it. England have survived it. They’ve batted out the day. They’ve batted a hundred and two overs.
Last shining moment for the Broad-Anderson duo? In terms of Test cricket, this week (starting on January 43rd, 2022) was the peak. NZ vs Bangladesh, Ashes 4th Test, and Ind vs SA 2nd Test, all classic thrillers.
Match Summary:India 202 & 266;South Africa 229 & 243/3
Player of the Match: Dean Elgar
India had won the first Test of the series comfortably. This was India’s best chances to conquer South Africa. Successful overseas victories in Australia and England, an unparalleled depth, and a South Africa team at their lowest point. In a low scoring series, 202 & 266 were decent scores. Day 4, 240 monumental target for SA against a bowling line up of Bumrah-Shami-Thakur-Siraj-Ashwin, and what happens? Elgar takes body blows, does not hesitate, and makes a glorious 96*. No captain Kohli. India succumbs to defeat by 7 wickets.
“That’s it! History has been made at the Wanderers. and South Africa have fought back brilliantly! Take a bow, Dean Elgar….Fantastic effort, leading from the front. He’s worn a few on the body but hasn’t bothered him. Shown character and desire, grit & determination to get his team over the line. And set up the series beautifully.” Commentary Video
A win against India at Wanderers at last. First 200+ chase for SA in a decade. After losing the first Test of a series, this was truly a comeback of the ages. India missed their golden chance due to some tough cricket from the Proteas. Third Test, captain Kohli came back. Rishabh Pant scored 100*, but Keegan Petersen’s 72 & 82 meant that SA chased 212/3 yet again.
Match Summary:Australia 337/9 declared & 216/7 declared; England 297 & 245/9 declared
Player of the Match: Heather Knight
Heather Knight’s Test, but Australia had the upper hand. After they declared for 216/7 in the 2nd innings, England took on the challenge for the chase of 257. At 218/3 with Nat Sciver & Sophia Dunkley, it seemed that England might win this. But Alana King, Beth Mooney’s catch, Sutherland’s bouncers, and a run out ensured England’s collapse. Last ball, full toss, England 245/9. The narrowest of draws.
“And it’s a full toss. It is a drawww! And it is one of the very best Test matches we have seen in women’s Ashes.
In Women’s Test cricket, this was a friendly reminder that Test cricket can flourish if given the chance and plenty of opportunities, both at the domestic and international level. With focus on the 4-day vs 5-day debate, this Test came at hte right time.
Why Are We Seeing Close Test Matches So Frequently?
For an away team to win a Test match, it takes an immense amount of effort and equal amount of fightback from the home team. Hence, winning an away Test usually means going deep into the 4th of 5th Day, which makes for an interesting viewing. On the other hand, home team in friendly bowling conditions mean Test matches can end within 3-4 days (even 2 days).
More away victories or draws means more close Test matches.
What do you remember about Test cricket in the 2010s? Mitchell Johnson 2013, the advent of the Day-Night Test, Smith-Warner saga, South Africa’s blockathon in Delhi, and excellence from the South African team, Dale Steyn, Anderson-Broad, Boult-Southee, Starc-Hazlewood-Lyon-Cummins, Jadeja-Ashwin, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson.
Above all, though, I remember disproportionate margins by which home teams won. India losing in England 0-4 (with RP Singh flying from Miami due to excessive injury list) & Australia 0-4 (2011). India came back to England with 1-3 (2014), and 1-4 (2018). Their record in South Africa and New Zealand, remains disastrous till today. England and Australia were either swept apart or struggled to make a mark in India or Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Pakistan had made UAE their fortress under Misbah-ul-Haq.
Post the 2010-12 England generation (think Alastair Cook Ashes 2010 & England victory 2-1 in India), except for South Africa, no other team seemed competitive overseas. Only Faf du Plessis’ Adelaide debut & England’s defiance via Matt Prior against New Zealand (2013) stretched to the end of Day 5.
From the list above, we can see that the tide is finally turning. Even in England’s disaster tour of India earlier this year (1-3), they won the first Test in Chennai.
Rise of Away Wins, Sporting Declarations, and Pakistan/West Indies
So why have we seen a resurgence of overseas victory?
It can be attributed to 4 factors – (1) Increase depth in cricket teams in general, (2) sporting declarations (#1, #2, #5, #8, #13, #15, #17), (3) captains like Virat Kohli focusing their resources and energy on Test cricket, (4) the rise of the West Indies/Pakistan.
One might argue that West Indies still have a dismal Test record. However, we can see that they made it in this list 3 times. They have definitely become a competitive force under Jason Holder although consistency is now needed. ‘Second tier Test’ teams like West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and Sri Lanka punching above their weights and winning overseas matches adds to the excitement (A Relegation-Promotion System in the World Test Championship might help out).
Anyway, here is to more great Test matches. Yes, live audience in Test cricket is decreasing and overkill of cricket/new formats might threaten Test Cricket, but as long as the cricket is good, Test matches will remain alive.
Lots of world cricket recently. Cricket here, cricket there, cricket everywhere.
In the last month, New Zealand defeated India to lift the inaugural World Test Championship. South Africa swept the Test series 2-0 and won the T20I series 3-2 against the world champions, West Indies, who themselves blew Australia out of the park in the T20I series.
Ireland emerged victorious in an almost-perfect ODI match against South Africa. Finally, a last-minute England’s second-string squad whitewashed a full-strength Pakistan team 3-0, and a second-string India threatens to be too strong for Sri Lanka on paper.
If you tried predicting all the series above, most likely you would have missed a few. Cricket’s landscape is changing. A vast transformation is taking place.
No single team is unbeatable, and no team can be taken lightly. Case and point— Sri Lanka. Transition phase, lackluster, downfall, where are the glory days gone?—call them anything, but they are the only Asian side to win a Test series in South Africa and that too in 2019.
In the current ODI Super League, Ireland have blown hot and cold. They have defeated current ODI World Cup holders, England and South Africa. Those were no fluke victories either—chasing 329 and putting 291 on the board is no little feat. However, the Irish drew 1-1 against UAE, lost 0-3 against Afghanistan, and surrendered important Super League points to Netherlands in a 1-2 series loss.
Let us dissect this further. This uncertainty is not a recent phenomenon either. Due to the influx of ICC tournaments (almost one every year now), there is a higher probability of multiple teams claiming a world trophy.
Gone are the days of West Indies 1980s (1975/1979 WC winners, 1983 finalist) and Australia 2000s (1996 finalists, 1999/2003/2007 WC winners, 2006/2009 Champions Trophy winners).
South Africa (till 2015) and India been right up there over the last decade without putting their stamp of domination. West Indies have dominated T20Is, England have changed ODI cricket, and New Zealand have been a constant force.
Yet since the 2013 Champions Trophy, a different winner has conquered each ICC Trophy.
2013 Champions Trophy: India
2014 T20 World Cup: Sri Lanka
2015 ODI World Cup: Australia
2016 T20 World Cup: West Indies
2017 Champions Trophy: Pakistan
2019 ODI World Cup: England
2021 World Test Championship: New Zealand
In the next decade, 5 WTC Finals, 6 T20I World Cups, 3 ODI World Cups, and 2 Champions Trophies will provide ample opportunity for new winners.
Sure, with the bench strength that England, India, or New Zealand possess, they will be contenders but not certain winners.
ICC Has Gotten Something Right
Honest confession time. I have been critical of the ICC in the past, but must give it to them. They have a made a few decent decisions recently—pushing for cricket in the Olympics, extending future World Cups to include more Associate nations (14-team ODI WC, 20-team T20I WC), and most importantly, by providing much needed structure.
The first great thing ICC did was granting T20I status to all 104 nations in 2018. It was the right step in “globalizing the game” by ensuring standardization in terms of grounds, umpiring, and code of conduct. T20I World Cups scheduled every two years will ensure vigorous qualification structure.
To provide context in Test cricket, the World Test Championship was installed. It has numerous flaws, but the fact that spectators were critical of the points table, a record number watched the finals, and predictions for the next cycles have already begun show that the ICC have succeeded at some level in contextualizing Test cricket. The fact that Virat Kohli, Tim Paine, Joe Root, and Kane Williamson have been active advocates for the WTC has made it an even better spectacle to view.
The best of these ICC innovations has to be the 13-team ODI Super League that feeds into the new ODI World Cup qualification system. Every ODI series is a 3-match affair, and every team plays 24 matches. This is already a win for the likes of Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and the Netherlands, getting opportunities to compete against the top teams consistently. By the looks of it, Sri Lanka and even South Africa are in real danger of not making direct qualification for the next World Cup, spicing things up.
These systems are only in their infancy, and by the time the structure is robust, cricket will be at a better place.
Looking Forward to the 2020s
The 2000s was a wonderful era for cricket—a collision of generations. Sri Lanka-Pakistan-India had strong teams, England, New Zealand, & West Indies were competitive enough, while South Africa & Australia were the teams to beat. ODI cricket was at its peak, Test cricket was still prospering, and the Sehwags & Gayles provided us a glimpse into T20 future.
The 2010s saw each team going through massive transition eras. Home advantage in Test cricket killed any semblance of competition. The overkill of T20 cricket questioned cricket’s existence at the core.
Cricket has seen a turning point, especially since 2019. All formats have seen riveting action.
Brendon McCullum’s New Zealand and Eoin Morgan’s England changed the way ODI cricket was played. The 2019 World Cup final, Ben Stokes/Steve Smith’s Ashes, and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy have created a new generation of cricket fans. A sporting Test cricket pitch can go a long way. Bonners-Myers 4th innings chase, Fawad Alam’s almost match-saving knock, and the World Test Championship final all gave chills.
Changes will continue, one team will no longer dominate, and that is only a good thing. World cricket has survived its chaotic phase and has come out for the better.
“Start by doing what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible,” said Francis of Assisi about 800 years ago.
India women did just that, holding England to an improbable draw.
Women’s Tests A Rarity
Due to an increased fan following in women’s cricket since the 2017 ODI World Cup, recent emphasis has been on limited overs cricket, expansion of the game via T20 World Cup, and a potential game changer in Women’s Hundred.
Since resources have been spent in marketing the limited overs game, women’s Test cricket has disappeared in the background.
England play only one Test match every couple of years in the Ashes against Australia. Indian women had it even worse—they were playing their first test after 7 years and only their third in 15 years.
We did not know how it will pan out. Will India struggle with the lack of match practice? Will they remain unbeaten in Tests in England? How would teams cope with a used pitch?
Electing to bat first, England posted a solid 396/9 declared courtesy their senior players: Beaumont’s 66, captain Heather Knight’s 95, Nat Sciver’s 42, and debutant’s Sophie Dunkley’s 74.
Openers Smriti Mandhana & Shafali Verma would form a record 167-partnership, before India collapsed for 231. England enforced the follow-on with India 165 runs still behind & 135 overs still left in the game.
Rana-Bhatia’s Performance of the Ages
In the second innings, they started by doing the necessary. The top order repeated its fight with contributions from Verma, Raut, and Sharma before they collapsed from 171-2 to 199-7 in 73.3 overs. What’s more, India’s last recognized batter, Harmanpreet Kaur departed. With 50 overs still to go, little did anyone expect that India would survive.
Then they did what was possible. Stitch out partnerships. Play ball-by-ball. Stall the time. An hour later, Shikha Pandey departed after a fighting 18 (50).
What followed was a performance of a lifetime, a magnificent rearguard effort between Taniya Bhatia & Sneh Rana—104* (185) partnership. Suddenly, India were doing the impossible.
Rana scored 80* (154) & Bhatia provided ample support with 44* (88) to deny England a routine victory.
Patience, grit, determination on show. Bravo India women!
Debutants Dare to Dream
The experienced duo, Mithali Raj & Harmanpreet Kaur, scored a paltry 18 runs in 4 innings. To achieve the impossible, India’s youngsters were thrown in the deep end, similar to the Border-Gavaskar series in men’s cricket.
Not only did the newer generation star, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Shafali Verma, Sneh Rana, and Taniya Bhatia were actually making their Test debuts for the India women team. Sophia Dunkley, whose 74* revived England from 251-6 to 396/9 declared, was debuting for England.
Shafali became the youngest women (17 years & 139 days) cricketer and second overall after Sachin Tendulkar to score fifties in both innings—96 & 63.
Promoted from #7 in the 1st innings to #3 in the 2nd, Sharma brought India back in the game with mature knocks of 29* & 54 to go along with 3/65.
Rana’s 4/131 & 80* Bhatia’s 44* saves India.
Vastrakar contributed with 1/53.
Ecclestone Bowls Herself To the Ground
The English bowlers were in the field for two and a half days!
Sophie Ecclestone took the bulk of the responsibilities, bowling 26 overs (out of 81.5) in the first innings and 38 (out of 121 overs) in the second. She ended up figures of 4-88 & 4-118.
Kudos to her for giving it her best shot. Can take some rest now. Already a T20 star, the 22-year old has the potential to be an all-time England great.
Time For 5-Day Tests In Women’s Cricket?
At the end of the 4th day, the captains shook hands with 12 overs to go. India were 179 runs ahead at 344/8.
Imagine a potential day 5—England’s target around 200 runs with 80 overs to go. All 4 results possible. Mouth-watering scenario, isn’t it? Well it isn’t entirely possible when you only have a 4-day Test.
Captain Heather Knight commented that the lack of 5th day “robbed of that finish,” and they would definitely be open for 5-day Tests. Mithali Raj had a more practical suggestion, “It’s a good idea to have a five-day Test but we actually have to start Test matches regularly.”
Why not combine both? Teams that traditionally play consistent Test cricket (Australia & England) should be allowed to experiment with 5-day Tests and pink-ball Tests. On the other hand, teams like India should not be searching for Test match opportunities every seven or eight years. Why not have one mandatory 4-day Test per bilateral series for teams like India, South Africa, and New Zealand? This way, more seasoned cricketers will get Test match experience and cricket boards will get the chance to focus on the marketing aspect of Women’s Test cricket.
Who knows, maybe a Women’s World Test Championship is just what is needed to provide context.
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After two long years of Test cricket & coronavirus interruption, the World Test Championship Final is finally here.
Rising Kiwis are slightly better prepared against world beaters India with a series against England. India has been in England for a few weeks due to quarantine but have only played an internal practice match.
Two of the best teams on show, finally some context for Test cricket, BJ Watling’s retirement, but will rain spoil it all?
The idea of the World Test Championship is not a new one.
World Test Championship was supposed to become a reality in 2009, 2013, & 2017, but each of those iterations were cancelled in favor of much more lucrative, ICC ODI Champions Trophy.
Imagine an Indian team comprising of Sehwag, Sachin, Dravid, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan competing against McCullum’s 2015 team or even better, the golden South African era of Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, AB De Villiers, & Dale Steyn earlier in the decade.
Anyway, World Test Championship finally came into existence in 2019 and began with the England-Australia Ashes series. 58 matches later, India and New Zealand are deservedly in the finals, carrying bench strengths of envy.
India began by routing West Indies in the Caribbean, before securing points at home against lackluster South Africa & Bangladesh teams.
Then came the tours Down Under. While Kiwis routed India in swing bowling conditions, India delivered a masterclass of ages in Australia. After 36/9 in Adelaide, Rahane’s century resurrected India in Melbourne. Then, the Pujara-Pant-Vihari-Ashwin show ensured India survived the 3rd Test, and the youngsters Shardul-Sundar-Pant-Siraj broke the Gabba fort to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Finally, the England home series was a completely one-sided event even after Joe Root’s classic gave England a headstart at Chennai. Ashwin’s all-round magic at home & Axar Patel’s memorable debut ensured India ease past England.
World Test Championship Final Preview – India’s Road To Glory
*Signifies away series
New Zealand’s road to glory was much more formulaic.
The Kiwis started with away tours of Sri Lanka & Australia. While they put on a good show in New Zealand, winning one match, they were hammered in Australia (barring Neil Wagner’s intense series).
At home, it was same old. Swinging conditions. Boult, Southee, and debutant of the year, Kyle Jamieson, wrecked havoc against India and West Indies. Only Pakistan provided any semblance of resistance with Fawad Alam’s classic fourth innings ton going in vain with four overs left in the Test match.
World Test Championship Final Preview – New Zealand’s Road To Glory
World Test Championship Final Preview – The Teams
Watch out for Ajinkya Rahane. He has a tendency to perform when it matters the most although his lack of consistency is frustrating. Rahane’s leadership & century in Melbourne was the catalyst for India in the memorable Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Since then, his form has gone hiding. England will bring back nice personal memories, and he is probably India’s best batter in swinging conditions. It is high time he shows up.
There were rumors that Mohammad Siraj would play in place of one of Mohammad Shami or Ishant Sharma, but that did not happen. India’s bowling has variety with Bumrah’s accuracy, Ishant’s seam, and Shami’s reverse swing. Looking forward to watch Ishant, who is in his 4th and most rewarding phase of his career. His 7-74 at Lord’s in the last tour was especially spectacular.
Tributes have started flowing in for BJ Watling in his retirement match. This one is my favorite, especially his mom’s statement. Watling has been a symbol of this rising team’s resilience and stability. Always solid behind the stumps, he will go down as Kiwis’s greatest keeper, but what I will miss the most is his rearguard action. NZ’s middle order rarely collapsed, but when it did, Watling was at the rescue. The question is, does he have one fighting innings left in him?
This is a very understated team, but do you know who is the New Zealand in the New Zealand team?Tom Latham & Henry Nicholls. When the Conways, Williamsons, or Taylors make huge scores around them, you can guarantee that Latham-Nicholls will provide ample solid support. Expect one of them to rise to the occasion in the finals.
Watch Out For
Sharma-Shubman Vs Pace brigade of Boult-Southee-Jamieson: This might as well set the tone for this match. A Mumbai Indians mini-match between Boult & Rohit Sharma.
Latham-Conway-Nicholls Vs R Ashwin: Ashwin has been India’s most successful bowler in this WTC cycle and has performed across all conditions (with both bat and ball). Conway is in the form of his life and the Kiwis have 2 other left-hand batters in the Top 5. Expect to see a lot of Ashwin.
The slip catching.England’s dropped catches were on show in the last series and they have been one of the worst slip catching sides in the past two years. So I am glad Ind-NZ are playing this week. Both teams have legendary fast bowlers, so the ball will go to the slips more than usual. Rest assured, the catches will be taken. Rahane, Taylor, Rohit, Kohli, Latham should do the job.
India has revealed its XI ahead of time. Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, Hanuma Vihari, Axar Patel, Mayank Agarwal all played crucial roles in the lead up to the WTC Finals, but unfortunately did not make the final XI. This is also the first time that Jadeja-Ashwin-Sharma-Shami-Bumrah will play together. What a mouth-watering lineup.
Squad: Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj
New Zealand’s lineup selects itself, but the crucial question is the #7-8 spot. Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, & Ajaz Patel performed admirably in the England series and Colin de Grandhomme has been out for a while, so will they go for a four-fast bowler strategy? Ajaz Patel should have done enough in the England series for a spin option in this Southampton pitch.
Tom Latham, Devon Conway, 3. Kane Williamson*, 4. Ross Taylor, 5. Henry Nicholls, 6. BJ Watling (WK), 7. Colin de Grandhomme/Kyle Jamieson/Matt Henry, 8. Tim Southee, 9. Neil Wagner, 10. Trent Boult, 11. Ajaz Patel
Squad: Will Young, Tom Blundell (WK)
Mitchell Santner, Daryl Mitchell, Doug Bracewell, Jacob Duffy, and Rachin Ravindra failed to make the final cut.
I honestly cannot see a way past the weather. Both teams have excellent bowling options, so unless both teams suffer collapses twice, a result would be very hard to attain.
Would love if we get a full game, but for now, going with a Draw.
Verdict: Draw 0-0
If the game does happen, what am I excited for the most? Neil Wagner’s intensity, Colin de Grandhomme’s hairdo, Williamson-Kohli-Southee’s continuing journey from U-19 World Cup, Pujara-Pant combination, Ross Taylor’s wisdom, an emotional sunset to Watling’s wonderful career, and in general, just a hard-fought sporting final.
World Test Championship Final Preview – Prediction
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World Test Championship Records
Are there are records that can be broken in the World Test Championship Final?
It is really interesting that even though NZ made it to the finals, there is nobody in the top 15 run-scorer. Combination of several players standing up and the fact that NZ did not play as many games. Kane Williamson is at 16th with 817 runs and Tom Latham is 25th with 680 runs.
India, on the other hand, have 5 batters in the Top 15:
Rahane – 1095 (5th)
Rohit Sharma – 1030 (6th)
Kohli – 877 (11th)
Agarwal – 857 (12th)
Pujara – 818 (15th)
Ashwin is on #3 with 67 wickets and Southee is New Zealand’s best at #5 with 51 wickets.
Kyle Jamieson – 36 (12th)
Ishant Sharma – 36 (13th)
Mohammad Shami – 36 (14th)
Jasprit Bumrah – 34 (16th)
Trent Boult – 34 (18th)
Neil Wagner – 32 (20th)
Fielding and Dismissals
Both teams are pretty close on this list with BJ Watling – 43 dismissals (4th) and Rishabh Pant – 40 (5th).
In terms of catches, Rahane – 22 catches (4th) and Ross Taylor – 18 (5th) are at the top with Rohit Sharma – 16 (6th) and Virat Kohli – 16 (7th) close behind. New Zealand’s next best is Tom Latham – 14 (12th).
Greek philosopher Heraclitus penned a now famous phrase, “Change is the only constant in life, ” and well, it seems that the Cricket World Cup (CWC) formats took this quote a little too seriously.
Group stage, round-robin, Super Sixes, Super Eights, knockouts—you name it, the format has been experimented with.
History Repeats Itself
From an 8-team event (1975, 1979), the CWC gradually grew to nine teams (1992), then 12 (1996, 1999), 14-teams (2003), and finally reached its inflection point with 16 teams in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
The 2007 iteration was poorly received for various reasons, but one of the fallouts was halting the gradual expansion of Associate nations in World Cups. With genuine upsets from Ireland & Bangladesh against Pakistan, India, and later South Africa, the ICC lost a major chunk of funding.
2011 & 2015 World Cups went back to the ‘90s formats with an elongated 14-team event, while the 10-team 2019 & 2023 events have revived the 1992 round-robin structure, providing as much game time (and hence, financial stability) for the big teams.
If It Is Broke, Fix It
The change of management has done wonders for the ICC—reducing the power of the Big 3, promoting the idea of cricket in the Olympics, and expanding the game with coordinated World Cups with a blockbuster World Cup schedule for the next decade:
Men’s ODI World Cup & Women’s ODI Champions Trophy (2023, 2027, 2031)
Women’s ODI World Cup & Men’s Champions Trophy (2025, 2029)
Women’s & Men’s T20I World Cups (2024, 2026, 2028, 2030)
World Test Championship Final (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029, 2031)
There is at least one major tournament for both men & women every year with the odd years also including the World Test Championship final.
Expansion Is the Will of the Nature
If you thought that was good news, hear this out.
The 54-match ODI World Cup is expanded to a 14-team affair (throwback to 2003) – 2 groups of 7, followed by Super Sixes, and finally the semi-finals & the finals.
The 55-match T20I World Cups will well and truly be a ‘world cup’—20 team tournament, 4 groups of 5, a Super Eight Stage, followed by semi-finals & finals. The T20I World Cup will guarantee at least 4 games for eight non-Test playing nations. Massive improvement.
With expanded World Cups, this provides incentive & motivation for Associate players to continue the game. Several Associate cricketers have taken premature retirements for opportunities elsewhere. This will add the fuel to keep them going.
Basketball has caught up with the FIFA benchmark of world cups with a 32-team event, while field hockey & rugby are 16-team affairs. It is time that cricket expand and catch up to the will of nature.
Revisiting the Glory Days
Remember Dwayne Leverlock’s one-handed stunner? Or Shapoor Zadran’s emotional celebration?
This is what World Cups are for—discovering new talents, cherishing the moments, providing a platform for smaller teams to grow, and promoting competition, not diminishing it.
The Associate Nations have provided numerous moments of glory—World Cup’s fastest century at the hand of Kevin O’Brien to hand England a defeat in Bangalore, Stuart Broad’s missed run-out/overthrow giving way for a Netherlands victory, Zimbabwe’s defeat to world-beaters Australia in 2007, and Bangladesh’s rise via CWC victories against Pakistan (1999), India, South Africa (2007), and England (2011, 2015).
Gruesome Qualifier Tournaments Out of the Window
With the expanded World Cup formats, one thing is for certain. The added salt to injury, also known as the Qualifiers, will have a lesser impact.
After Afghanistan & Ireland attained Test Status and became Full Members, the 2019 & 2023 formats were even more difficult to digest. It is a cricket sin for Full Members to not be a part of the World Cup. Zimbabwe & Ireland did not make it to the 2019 WC, and it is likely that even someone like Sri Lanka can lose out on a spot in the next world cup.
Case & point is the 2018 CWC Qualifier, one of the more closely fought tournaments in recent times. Scotland was in sight of qualifying at the expense of the West Indies or Afghanistan, when rain arrived and Scotland mathemagically lost by 5 runs due to the DL method. Zimbabwe also missed out on a qualification spot due a rained-out match.
An over or two should not determine fates for a World Cup qualification. Even worse was the T20 tournaments. After a 51-match qualification tournament for Associates, teams would enter a 3-match ‘pre-qualification’ stage in the actual world cup itself! Ludicrous.
In 2016, Bangladesh & Afghanistan proceeded to the next round while Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Oman, & Ireland crashed out.
Double disqualification, I like to call it. Survivor of the fittest ones that have the most money.
Warning: Potential Conflicts & T10 Format Ahead
Not everything will be fixed by expanding the Word Cup, however. Last month, the ICC backed T10 Cricket in Olympics. I am in full support of cricket in the Olympics albeit T20.
However, with a T20 World Cup now scheduled every two years, including 2028 & 2032, T20 cricket in the Los Angeles & Brisbane Summer Olympics look like a distant dream. Creating an international T10 format might be the only feasible choice, further crowding the international and the T10/T20 leagues calendar.
In any case, I will definitely take more context in cricket calendar, & support for the Associate & lower-ranked nations in exchange of embracing the T10 format.
It is the Little Moments That Matter
Did we really need a World Cup to prove that in the ‘80s the West Indians were a class apart or the Australians were the best in the world in the 2000s?
No, but a World Cup or Olympics is much more than that. So, why have predictable world cup formats?
Surprises & uncertainty, thrills & chills, unity in a divided world, and sportsmanship & hope amidst despair—that is what sport is all about.
It is about time cricket puts the world back in its so-called world cup.
New Zealand Vs England 2021 Test Series Preview—an understated rivalry.
“Bowled ’em! Got him 3rd ball.”
“England have won the world cup by the barest of margins. By the barest of all margins.”
Scars from Starc’s dismissal of Brendon McCullum in the 2015 World Cup Final & Martin Guptill’s run-out in that Super Over still run deep. The Black Caps have lost the last two ODI World Cup finals, a Champions Trophy final (2009), and four semi-finals (2 T20I, 2 ODI) all within the last fifteen years.
Although South Africa are known as the perennial chokers, and India are the new holders of the tag after an underachieving decade, New Zealand are not that far behind. They have one more shot with a final at Lord’s with the World Test Championship against India. The real question is, are Kiwis prepared for glory?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, New Zealand have important couple of test matches against England as prep.
I do not know about you, but I am very excited about this series. Since the abandonment of the IPL, there has been barely any international cricket.
This is not part of the World Test Championship (WTC) or the Future Tours Programme (FTC). This series has no-context on paper, but numerous interesting little stories running in the background nevertheless.
New Zealand – Conway’s Debut & Watling’s Retirement Talk of the Town
Devon Conway has to have one of the greatest cricketing stories in recent memory. Not able to get into the secondary club teams in South Africa 5 years ago, he is now about to get a Test debut at Lord’s. Sold everything in South Africa, churned a mountain runs in New Zealand’s first class system, and has been rewarded accordingly. The result?
14 T20Is, 4-50s, best of 99*, 59.12 average, 151.11 SR
3 ODIs, 1-100, 1-50, best of 126, 75.00 average, 88.23 SR
Tough luck for Tom Blundell (2-100s & 2-50s in just 16 innings) & Will Young (couple of county tons coming into the series)
BJ Watling, one of the greatest wicketkeepers of recent times & definitely for New Zealand, has decided to hang up his boots. Brilliant behind the stumps, and known for his ‘rescue acts.’ A daddy hundred or two from tough situations in the next three Tests will go a long way.
New Zealand has a wealth of allrounders. Daryl Mitchell’s last outing in international cricket has been a positive one – 100* (ODI) & 102* (Tests). Expect him to slot in the XI even though Colin de Grandhomme is back in the squad (with a great hairdo as well I shall add) & Mitchell Santner is always a valuable asset.
Although New Zealand now have a well balanced squad and great depth, the big guns will still need to fire—Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Tom Latham, captain Kane Williamson, & veteran Ross Taylor.
England – What do England have to Gain from this Series?
With Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, the Currans, Chris Woakes, & Jofra Archer (elbow surgery) out due to IPL quarantine, the entire lower-middle order will be missing in action. This will provide the England management to test their depth. Debuts for keeper James Bracey & fast bowler Ollie Robinson on the cards, with the likes of Olly Stone, Craig Overton, and comeback kid, Haseeb Hameed, on the sidelines.
Jimmy Anderson is poised to play his 161st Test match, joint-highest for England along with Sir Alastair Cook. Eight wickets away from a monumental 1000 first class wickets, 5 wickets away from Anil Kumble‘s 619, and 94 wickets to Shane Warne, it might well be a season of records for Anderson.
Joe Root has had a stellar Test year with 794 runs & 3 tons, including a couple of daddy hundreds in Sri Lanka & India. Can he back it up with a home season of the ages?
Burns-Sibley-Crawley against New Zealand’s swing bowlers—The opening combination was under a bit of fire in Asia, but it will not get any easier against Southee-Henry-Jamieson-de Grandhomme-Mitchell-Wagner.
Partial crowds (around 25%) are back at Lord’s. Good news for cricket fans, and hope things remain safe for time to come.
Verdict: New Zealand win 1-0
Player of the Series/MVP
James Bracey (WK)
Daryl Mitchell/ Colin de Grandhomme
New Zealand Vs England 2021 Test Series Predictions
Kiwis have an upper hand, but do not count England out. Both teams are filled with great fast bowling talent, but New Zealand’s all-round & batting has the edge.
I am going with New Zealand 1-0. A closely fought first game, with New Zealand narrowly winning & holding England to at least a draw in the second match.
What about you? Let us know in the comments below!
Here we are with part II in our series, Make Test Cricket Great Again: Problems with Test Cricket.
Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
This is exactly our goal. The long-term ambition of this series of articles is to generate a whole list of problems associated with Test cricket, propose respective solutions(both idealistic & practical), bring other people in during the process, and maybe at the end, gather enough momentum to gain the attention of administrators & the ICC.
Today, we bring in our friends from Twitter who will share their concerns with Test cricket & the World Test Championship.
The more opinions we have, the better. We can only move forward with a rich exchange of ideas between the fans, commentators, local administrators, experts, & former players rather than just the meeting board room of the Big 3.
The Work Done So Far
We did a similar exercise during the early days of the World Test Championship, but we wish to build upon this model. Here are some of our past proposals to improve the WTC.
Problems: Imbalance of the Big 3 (Australia, England, India) and the bias of ‘marquee’ series like the 5-match Ashes.
Solution: Merge the FTP (Future Tour Programme) & the WTC, and create a system where each team plays a 5-4-3 match series or 4-4-4 Test match series during a cycle. “Instead of scrapping the Ashes, we will keep traditional rivalries intact and encourage new ones.” Overall, 24 games against 9 opponents in a 2.5 year WTC cycle.
Problems: (1) Points fluctuate based on number of games in a series (60 points – 2 Tests, 40 – 3 Tests, 24 – 5 Tests), (2) No points accommodated for Home & Away Advantage, and (3) All-Or-Nothing Points System for a 5 day-15 session Test match.
Solution: We combine the ODI Super League system (consistent base point system per series), provide a mechanism for home versus away (away wins & draws worth more), and distribute additional points across sessions to incorporate ebb & flow (2 points – session won, 1 point – even/wash out).
We implement our system from above and compare it with the WTC Table (as of August 30, 2020)
The Work Planned Ahead
The issue with my initial set of articles was the underlying assumption that each team will play an equal number of matches against each other. In a post-COVID world, matches are not guaranteed, and it seems certain nations are prioritizing games against higher ranked teams and calling off series against lower-ranked ones.
Hence, we plan to do practical investigations in our future articles:
Revenue each Test playing nation generates: How much money does each cricket board and player earn every Test series per country? Why does New Zealand lose money to host a Test? How does the revenue compare to T20 leagues and the death of the tri-series?
What does it take to host a Test match? We can analyze what goes during the match but what goes behind the scenes? We will research and examine key components: The major players, administrators, ground staff, and more.
Equity vs Equality: Innovations that can help further bridge the gap between the different teams given the current financial status and level of each team.
The Pink Ball Test: Does More Harm Than Good? Day-night Test matches ending in 2-3 days cannot generate more crowd/interest than a balanced Test match held for 5 days during the day. We will analyze the key differences between the red ball & pink ball, practice matches in domestic tournaments, and if this idea is worth sustaining?
Your Opinion Matters: Problems With Test Cricket
In Part I of the series, we asked our friends on Twitter how they would improve Test cricket. Some ideas that I brainstormed to get the conversation started were as follows:
Getting rid of DRS umpires call (on impact)
Improving/ Standardizing pitches (Chennai 2x pitch received way too much backlash)
Promoting more money from T20 leagues to help out domestic cricketers
Having a relegation-promotion system for the WTC
What Do People Think?
Now it is the people’s turn. Here is what they had to say. These are interesting Twitter accounts, blogs, & podcasts in their own right. Feel free to check them out (links next to the name).
Every team should play against each other. That will make the tournament lengthy but it will make it perfect and no teams can be said to have an easier pool or tougher pool. Conduct finals once in 4-5 years. Every Test playing nation should play against each other. It will make the WTC more enthralling contest.
“I just hate the comments that this team got ‘easier’ away tours than others. Or easier home games. WTC is a mighty big championship and in something big like this, you do not want any comments which should call it unfair.”
Brilliant entries from Twitter! Major theme was to create a balance in the number of Test matches played between each country during a particular cycle. Some innovative solutions for the WTC included 2 groups semi-finals format, bonus points against higher ranked teams, & a 3-match final. For Test cricket in general—mandatory neutral umpires, DRS improvement, & updating rain-protocols were some interesting proposals.
Last time, I started with “I have been meaning to write this article for months now, but for some reason have not been able to.”
I now know why. This is not a one day project. Or a one week project. Or even a one person project. This will take input from several individuals, research & conversations, back & forth exchanges, and a lot of time. But, as they say:
“Rome was not built in day. It was built brick by brick.”
One step at a time.
Make Test Cricket Great Again and Restore the Soul of This Wonderful Sport.