Test Match Pitches: Time for Radical Changes

Siddharth GaneshCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2009

As I write this, England (Eng) captain Andrew Strauss has declared and West Indies (WI) have been set an inviting target of 240 in 66 overs. An interesting two sessions in the offing. Australia (Aus) have comprehensively beaten South Africa (RSA) yet again in the second test in a row.

Earlier this season, India (Ind) and RSA pulled off incredible fourth innings chases to beat Eng and Aus, respectively.

These matches are great advertisements for Test cricket indeed. Having said that, the quality of pitches in certain parts of the world have been so appalling that cricket has been reduced to a vapid formality in which one side tries to bore the life out of the other, in the process killing the very essence of the sport.

The major culprits in the murder of Test cricket in the past decade have been WI and Ind. Considering Tests held since the turn of this millennium, matches played in WI and Ind have produced a staggering 41 percent and 39 percent draws.

At the other of the spectrum, RSA and Aus have had just 14 percent and 15 percent of the Tests without outcomes.

In light of these disturbing statistics, I would like pose the following questions to the International Cricket Council (ICC).

1) Does the ICC really want Test cricket to survive, leave alone flourish?

2) I'd imagine the answer to 1) to be a yes. Then what is it doing to ensure that crowds, especially the younger generation, come in and enjoy the game?

3) Does the ICC have any influence on the quality of pitches prepared by individual nations?

4) If yes, then the ICC is clearly failing in its duty. It is letting the biggest market for the sport shun Test cricket by allowing dead pitches to generate Test matches loaded with runs and tedium.

5) If the answer to 3) is no, then the ICC's very existence is questionable.

In any case, the individual cricket boards should be made answerable to the ICC. There has got to be some system with which the performance of pitches can be evaluated.

The fundamental objective of Test team is to take 20 wickets to win a game. It is the duty of the ICC to make the cricket boards prepare pitches that can provide just that.

We don't want to see slugfests in which one side scores 700 in response to a first innings score of 600. We don't want to see the art of Test match bowling extinct. We don't want to make Test cricket history.

We want to see a good, even contest between bat and ball, spread over five days. And that seems to be the hardest thing in the world.