FOUR DAY TESTS OR FIVE?
Sathafrika (how a Sathafrikan would pronounce South Africa) have proposed to play a 4 day test against cricket's whipping boys Zimbabwe as a Boxing Day test filler before they take on India in January. India were scheduled to play a 4 test series against the Proteas but Sri Lanka's 70th year of Independence threw a spanner in the works.
kubera's island have decided to host a 4 nation ODI tournament as part of the celebrations thereby "preponing" (advancing to non-Indians, to Indians: that's not a word STOP USING IT) their arranged return series in India to November. As BCCI cannot give up on the too-big-to-fail-and-utterly-useless-and-pointless (not one team is close to turning a profit in 10 years) cash cow IPL, a potential classic 4 test series in the Rainbow Nation has turned into a run-of-the-mill 3 test series. Reason #9128459125719475947591475199451451045123 why tonti tonti is destroying real cricket.
Coming back to the original point, Sathafrika since they're presumably much stronger than former Rhodeesha (how a Sathafrikan would pronounce Rhodesia) want a shorter 4 day test to have some recovery period before taking on the big boys. This has reignited the debate of shortening tests to 4 days because test attendance is failing everywhere but Australia & England. As always the brilliant Andy Bull of grauniad makes a convincing argument why test cricket should be of at least 5 days.
One of the repeated suggestions has been having an extra hour's play each day and reduce the number of days to four. This means we have a minimum of 105 overs per day for 4 days. We lose 30 overs from the current possible 450 overs per test which is not much. Mathematically it amounts to losing 1 session. The idea is that teams will adjust their plans & tactics to finish tests in 14 sessions instead of 15.
This idea is currently impossible to implement. Whilst test matches in the subcontinent rarely exceed 6 hours of play because bulk of the overs are bowled by spinners, matches in England & Australia rarely finish in 6 hours because most of the overs are bowled by pacemen. For many years now, a 3rd session in excess of 35 overs isn't uncommon in England. The over rates are so poor that bowlers barely finish the allotted 90 overs even after extending the post-tea session by 1 hour. ICC has rules about over rates with heavy fines and suspensions but they are very rarely enforced. In addition to this, the Indian subcontinent is not blessed with the long hours of sunlight. Eight hour days (7 hours play plus 1 hour lunch & tea) are highly impractical in this setting.
We must increase the expected over rate to around 18 overs an hour in the subcontinent and we must strictly enforce the current 15 overs elsewhere. Neither is happening any time soon.
So do we have 4 day tests of 105 overs or continue with the 5 days tests of 90 overs?
How about neither and we go with SIX day tests?
Yup, you heard me. SIX day tests!
- SIX days
- 75 overs per day
- 2 sessions of 150 minutes
- 30 minute lunch
What are the advantages you ask?
- Day is just 5.5+ hours long instead of the current 7+ hours.
- Shorter day is good both for the spectator and the TV companies.
- The bad light issues at the end of the day for all intents & purposes: GONE.
- A day/night test can begin at 4 pm and end at 9.30 pm. Excellent again for both stadium spectators and TV audience.
There will be issues but of course.
- When will the new ball be due?
- How many DRS?
- What if rain wipes out a session, do we still play 38 over single session or 50 overs over two sessions?
Etcetera, etcetera. Teething problems in any new venture are inevitable. T20 began in 2003 and for four long years was considered nothing more than a gimmick. Ten years later the mandarins of ICC are reconsidering the future of the 50 over game in order to have a standard T20 season in a very busy calendar.
Dale Steyn's career has been managed, either by design or by coincidence, excellently by South Africa. Since his debut, the Proteas have played 123 tests, 247 ODIs & 88 T20Is. Steyn has missed 131 ODIs & 46 T20Is. Despite princess like mollycoddling, Steyn's body has been crushed by the rigours of test cricket. He has not played a single test out of the 10 played by Sathafrika in 2017 and has missed 19 since January 2015. Mitchell Starc has stress-related issues every 5 tests. Pat Cummins didn't play a test for 5 years after his dream debut against Sathafrika. As Rob Moody observes, James Pattinson's injuries are as certain as death & taxes.
The beauty of test cricket is essentially its long drawn out character. Three sessions per day for five days gives the men who essentially win matches, the bowlers, enough time for recuperation. Extending the day puts a heavy toll on the rock stars, the fast men, who are already on the precipice of what is humanly possible. 6 days of 2 (slightly extended) sessions per day could possibly preserve their bodies for much longer.
So what do you think? Four, Five or Six?