Not many years ago, test matches were played during seasons. Between November and February is when India generally hosted test matches. Weather wise, that’s the best time of the year for most parts of the country – wonderful cool weather, bright sunshine and greenery all around. It’s perfect time to be outdoors: to play, or to watch others play. No wonder, people look forward to sitting in a stadium, enjoying both the match and the weather.
Similarly, when India visited other countries, the test series was generally held when the host country had pleasant weather: England between April and July, Australia in Dec and Jan, etc.
Test matches almost always started on Fridays, and ended on Wednesdays; with Mondays being rest days. (The rest day was scrapped a few years ago, but the matches still began on Fridays.).
Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the first three days made the match interesting. For two reasons: One, being a weekend, it let’s a lot more people create time to watch a test match, be it at home or in the stadium. Two, the match was ‘open’ during the first three days and we could watch both teams bat and bowl during these three days.
Nowadays, a test match takes place anytime the Boards can fit them between ODIs and T20 matches. They are held anytime of the year, be it winters, rains or summers. No more there is any sanctity observed on which day of the week the match should begin? Pity. As all these factors have killed test matches.
Lack of season, for example, has killed the joy of preparation for the spectators and fans. In the past, we used to love the build up, and would make elaborate plans to watch the matches.
Take the recently concluded India-Sri Lanka test series. Firstly, it was being played during the rainy season, when weather in both countries is wet, hot and humid. Certainly not the best time to enjoy cricket. To make it worse, each of the first two test matches started on a Monday and ended on a Friday! The third test started on Tuesday. Are cricketers playing a test match or attending office?
Take another example: While we played against Sri Lank, Australia and Pakistan played a two test series. Two test matches are being called a series?
It’s not fair to say everyone has abandoned test matches. There is a whole generation out there that is keenly interested in watching them. Yes, more people are interested in ODIs ad T20s, but only ‘more’.
The boards of all countries can work together to keep all three formats alive, so all the spectators and fans can get to enjoy what they like.
All that the boards have to do is divide the year into ‘seasons’ and plan the entire year together. All other international sports follow seasons – football, tennis, athletics, and formula one. So can cricket.
For instance, Test matches could be held only between Nov-Feb in the sub-continent and Australia. Or during summers, i.e June & July is England. This works out to about 5-6 months. April-May can be classified as IPL season. ODIs and T20 series can be planned during the balance 4 months.
This way, we can keep all forms of cricket alive and kicking. And we won’t see the murder of test cricket, like we saw in second match between India and Sri Lanka. The match started with less 100 spectators. The Sri Lankan board had to arrange for a live band to keep proceeding lively!
Raj Bhatia, August 8, 2010