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Test cricket needs close finishes - Suresh Menon Column
by Suresh Menon
Oct 28, 2008
By Suresh Menon

Perhaps it is the tyranny of the looming deadline. Or the desire to be the first to point out a developing trend. Whatever the reason, sports writers tend to be obituarists, happiest when they can write off a player or a team at the first sign of a hiccup. Often such obituaries become self-fulfilling prophecies, which is why in the old days players were advised not to read the newspaper during a match or a series.

This Australian team has been told for a while now that they are no-hopers, that they are the worst side from their shores to have visited India and so on. Yet, for the most part they had the better of the exchanges in the first Test at Bangalore. Mohali changed all that - and the Delhi Test commencing on Wednesday will be crucial for a team being written off both at home and here. Another defeat, and the volume of I-told-you-so's will be deafening.

Yet, only a month ago, it was the Indian team which was being written off. The middle order had reached its final stages, went the argument, there was nothing left in the cupboard marked 'spin bowlers' and the new generation was not ready yet. Now the middle order looks rejuvenated, a new leggie, Amit Mishra began his career with a five-wicket haul, and the opening combination cannot put a foot wrong. Reports of Indian cricketʼs death were premature, and Australia will be hoping that similar reports of their cricket are premature too. Rejuvenation is only one or two good bowling spells away.

At a time when Test cricket's fortunes are at a low ebb, with the threat from the various Twenty20 tournaments around the world, it is necessary for the two most attractive sides in the world to play out close finishes and exciting sessions to help traditional fans retain their faith as well as to attract a new set which cannot look beyond a 20-over match. One-sided matches turn away even the faithful.

Three decades ago, when a gentleman called Kerry Packer was threatening to tear the fabric of the traditional game, these same teams played out a five-Test series in Australia, which ended 3-2 and helped restore the primacy of Test cricket. Bobby Simpson was recalled from retirement to lead Australia, while Bishan Bedi led India, charming as much with his left arm spin as with his colourful patkas. India fought back after narrowly losing the first two Tests.

The current series, unfortunately, has been too much about failing individuals and not enough about the big picture. You don't need great players to play great cricket; perhaps the rival captains should have a chat before the third Test and work out how they can make their sport more attractive, where victory and defeat are merely by-products of five days of intense, hard-fought but appealing cricket. Test cricket is on trial, and if it fails to excite the public even in India, the spiritual home of the game, then the trial can go only one way.

The aim should be to bring the interest back to the traditional game - and this applies to all Test match series now - and demonstrate how 30 sessions in the field can be more rewarding than an evening out between an early dinner and a late bedtime.

If Australia climb back from the depths of despair - this is what champion teams do - then that would be a step.

More Views by Suresh Menon
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