All of a sudden, Test Cricket is worth watching

December 8, 2009

Every test match played in the last few weeks has been an advertisement for test cricket. After the surfeit of limited overs cricket over the last few months, this is a welcome relief. The just concluded India – Sri Lanka series and the ongoing Pakistan – New Zealand, and Australia – West Indies contests have been nothing if not riveting. As much as being wonderful test matches, collectively they have made people experience and rediscover the “arcane” beauty of a Test Match Series.

India had a woeful start to the series, having been reduced to 30 odd for 4 on the first day of the first match. Brilliant rearguard action in both the innings helped then save the blushes and walk into the second test with honours even. Over the next 9 days of brutally attractive test cricket, they annihilated the Lankans and in the process went to the top of test cricket’s leaderboard. The series was lit up thanks to some outstanding batting performances by batsmen from both the sides and in the process it is likely that stumps may have been drawn on the career of test cricket’s most successful bowler. On the back of their performance in this series, India can credibly lay claim to have assembled one of the greatest batting lineups of all time. What a time to be an India fan !!. The fact that India may not play enough number of tests in the near future and may therefore be eased down the rankings is further indication of the hamhandedness of the BCCI and is proof of where the BCCI’s priorities lie. Even the enormity of Sachin’s admission that climbing to the top of the test rankings is something that he has been dreaming about ever since he started representing the country is unlikely to move the BCCI and motivate them to mend their ways.

Pakistan on the other hand have done very well to come back from a 1-0 deficit to square the series. All very Pakistanesque. The intrigue and politics that preceded the series was soon overshadowed by the emergence of Umer Akmal and Mohammed Asif’s comeback after a forced layoff. Asif, at his best, takes over as McGrath’s successor. And there appears to be unanimity amongst cricket pundits that Umer is the biggest batting talent to have emerged from Pakistan since Mohammed Yousuf. All this bodes very well for cricket in general and test cricket in particular. In the middle of all this hype and hoopla, Vettori’s reputation as Cricket’s Alpha Male continues to rise. The series decider should be a humdinger.

In Australia, after a horror start in the first test, the Windies have redeemed themselves after a stellar second test performance. Vilified and ridiculed by the Aussie press after the first test, they have done well to have the better of the exchanges in the second test. Their road to redemption will be complete if they can manage a win in Perth, a venue which has inxplicably seen the Aussies lose their last two tests played there. Again, the way in which the Windies have fought back, highlights the intrinsic beauty of a “series” as opposed to one off encounters. All we need now is the return of the 5 match series and we would have come back a full circle. Going by the evidence of the last few series, cricket lovers around the world deserve it.

The build up to the England – South Africa has been promising. Two evenly matched teams, one scaling new peaks and the other seemingly slipping from a higher perch, slugging it out on the pitches of South Africa should make for interesting viewing. Strauss has taken quite a few people by surprise with the effectiveness of his leadership. By all counts, he is just the right kind of skipper for the English team at the moment. Smith on the hand seems to be going through a crisis of confidence. Is it possible that more than half a decade at the top is beginning to take its toll. The ensuing series should provide some answers. Could not have asked for a better match up to round off the year.


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