On June 27th 2016, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is likely to submit a proposal to reduce the duration of Test matches to 4 days in an attempt to revitalize the longest format.
According to the proposal, the game would have 15 overs per hour, with each day starting 30 minutes earlier than usual and also lasting for possiby 105 overs. However, BCCI may not be in favour of this change as they have to take into account their agreement with the broadcasters for staging 5-day Tests, but for once, they might be outnumbered by the other boards who are in favour of the change. With such support coming in, ECB chairman Colin Graves stated that 4-day Tests could soon turn into a reality. But, before implementing the proposal the highest level, its impact on the Test format is something that will have to be analyzed in detail.
% of Tests completed in less than 5 days:
1. With more matches ending before 5 days in recent times, the money spent on the security and ground-operating costs for the extra day goes down the drain as the boards would have paid for 5 days. The inception of 4 day Tests would not only minimize such wastage, but would also lead to more efficient tours where the players aren’t drained out by the end of a 4 or 5 Test series.
2. The over rate becoming 15 per hour implies that an extra hour is required to complete the extra 15 overs (if 105 overs per day). With the start of play advanced by just half an hour, the day would have to end 30- 45 minutes later than the usual time in order to meet the requirements. So, the fans can actually catch a glimpse of the match on the TV or even at the stadium after a long day of work. This is of course provided if separate tickets are sold for the final session, which increases sales as well viewership for the game.
3. During weekdays, lesser crowd turnout would be witnessed which would lead to lesser sales. The implementation of 4-day tests would lead to a weekday less and hence minimizes the losses due to low sales.
4. In the event of rain playing spoilsport, overs would be lost in the current situation whereas in the case of 4-day matches,a reserve day can be used to compensate the lost overs. In that case five days of Test cricket isn’t a problem too as the players have been accustomed to it. The same cannot be done in the present case of 5-day Tests as a sixth day can put too much workload on the player, leading to injuries.
5. There have been claims that despite the ‘T20 effect’ teams aren’t adopting an aggressive approach in Test cricket owing to the present mindset of conserving wickets over quick scoring. The 4-day matches would force the teams to be more aggressive in their approach, both while batting and bowling if they wish to force out a result in a slightly shorter period (30 overs lesser). This could just pave way to a more heated bat vs ball contest, which is precisely the need of the hour to save Test cricket. Add to this the increased crowd support and we have some great Test cricket to behold.
The first day-night test- a successful experiment in Test Cricket
6. The ICC is also considering a two-tier league format to be introduced in Test cricket, in an attempt to ‘create a meaning to the format’ and to also globalize Test cricket. However, the duration of the longest format makes it highly improbable to hold a league format featuring close to eight teams. This problem can be overcome through the 4-day Tests which can reduce the total no. of match days by at least a month. So, the 4-day Test concept and the two-tier Test system can actually go hand-in-hand when implemented.
7. However, the 4-day Test proposal also has a few disadvantages to it to go with the above positive impacts, with the most worrying aspect being the increased number of overs per day putting too much pressure on the body of the pace bowlers, leading to injury concerns. However, a point to be noted is that of the additional 15 overs to be bowled, only 2 or 3 overs at maximum would be bowled by a pacer. Over the course of the first 90 overs, he would have bowled close to 15-20 overs, and that too in short spells. So, a final burst of 2-3 overs after sufficient rest wouldn’t cause too much harm to the body of the bowler.
8. Spinners, for a long time have relied a lot on the ‘rough’ that develops towards the last 2 days owing to the bowlers’ footmarks. With matches getting over in 4 days, this factor would be ruled out. With the game already in favour of the batsmen, this could just add salt on the wounds of the spinners and make the game even more batsmen-friendly and uninteresting. However, pitches can be made to turn right from day 2 or 3, similar to the dustbowls we had recently witnessed in the home series against SA. But again, that wouldn’t be the ideal solution as the curators and the home team would be accused of ‘turning’ things in their favour.
In a generation where audiences want shorter, faster cricket to keep them glued to the match, Test cricket has been witnessing diminishing crowds and audiences. In fact, even the future of the format was looking bleak. However, going by the many advantages that the new format might provide, one can surely conclude that 4-day Test matches will rejuvenate the interest in Test cricket and would surely help in the survival of the oldest form of cricket. In fact, this might even be the welcome change in Test cricket that would be embraced with open hands.
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