How, as coaches, do we keep promoting the virtues of the ultimate format, Test cricket?
ODI and T20 cricket are both brilliant formats that have helped to develop broader interest levels in cricket across the globe whilst opening our eyes to advancements in fielding techniques, batting options and athleticism.
Test match cricket is a very different game to watch now because of the shorter formats and that's a good thing.
However, the challenge for me is to keep India interested in playing longer format cricket. The dominant Indian performances in the ODI series against England are a stark contrast to the pitiful 3 day capitulations that we saw at the back end of the Test matches.
This has nothing to do with ability, as the Indians have excellent players within their Test Team. To me it comes down to the attitude that the BCCI and has towards Tests. This rubs off on the player development system and, most importantly, upon the players.
We all know that if India lose interest in Test Match cricket, then the format will start a rapid slide into extinction.
So what's the solution?
2 day cricket
I encourage clubs all over the world to ask their local rival to play one 2 day, 4 innings match per year at under 16 level. This will act a as an introduction to the longer game and to expose young players to different pressures, strategies and methods that would normally be untapped.
- Limit the 1st innings to 65 overs where there will be an automatic declaration unless the side have declare previously or been bowled out.
- Whichever team scores the most runs in the first innings will be deemed the winner (winning on 1st innings) unless the lower scoring side can secure an outright win over the 2 days.
It's a format that works in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa yet foreign to many in the UK and in the sub-continent.
What does this format give you that others don't?
- The ability to bat long and to bowl more spells in a given day.
- Spinners are bought into play in a different way. The game becomes more about taking wickets than solely containing the run rate.
- Captains learn how to manage spin bowlers more effectively.
- Changing pitch conditions (especially if the match takes place over 2 weekends)
- Captaincy development, particularly in field placings, reading the ebbs and flows of the game and creating wicket taking opportunity.
- The opportunity to be losing the game on 1st innings to then choose to take some strategic risks in order to force a momentum shift that reverses the initial result.
- To create pressure on batters by having catchers around the bat. This in turn presents a different challenge for the batter and skills are developed at an accelerated rate.
There are many other benefits which then can also start to change the way that we may look at the way that we play the shorter formats too.
If we play 10 T20 matches and 18 50 over matches in a season, why couldn't we adjust that schedule slightly to incorporate a two-day game?
If we are truly passionate about the pinnacle of cricket, then we need to take measures to educate the young players that it is a great format and expose them to its virtues at an appropriate age.
That way, the future adult players and spectators will gain a keener insight into longer format cricket. The National Governing Bodies will take heed and Test cricket will continue to survive and thrive way beyond our time on the planet.
Develop players whilst preserving the "Ultimate Test". I lay down my challenge to all youth team coaches. Sacrifice 2 shorter format games per year for one 2 day game.
I assure your that the results will astound you.