For the handful of the Test match faithful, these are interesting times. The World Test Championship has got underway and India is set to make its debut in the five-day format played under lights with a pink ball. Being part of a championship cycle adds points as well as meaning to each Test match, while the day-night experiment will help market an otherwise staid product in a new wrapper. After much brainstorming, authorities the world over have come to the conclusion that for this format to survive, things have to be done differently so that the experience doesn’t become dull and monotonous.
While a look at the Test Championship table might delight the Indian fan (Virat Kohli’s team has 300 points, 240 more than second-placed New Zealand and Sri Lanka), it also suggests the distance between the poles is increasing. Hardly any of the Tests India played against the West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh saw any competition.
Other than India, England and Australia, and New Zealand to an extent, other nations are on a fast decline, which is reflected in the increasing number of lopsided contests. It can almost be predicted that Test matches between the stronger teams and others will not go to the fifth day. In their drive to be innovative, the authorities seem to have overlooked that for the longest format to be attractive, it can’t afford to lose the element of competitiveness.
As the Indian cricket fraternity gets busy welcoming the day-night Test, officials the world over who are concerned about the well-being of the traditional format should also think about what can be done to make it more entertaining. The real essence or thrill of sport lies in what happens in the middle. If the action and contest between bat and ball becomes unentertaining, then the settings and backdrops cannot make up for that loss. From that point of view, injecting life into the ailing boards of Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and others should be the priority for the game at this point in time. Spending resources on innovations, authorities should pay attention to this before it is too late.