One-Sided Test Cricket – What Is The Solution?

Test Cricket. The beautiful game, which will always be my favourite format.

But, it’s broken.

The Lord’s massacre, which ended in under two days worth of playing time, is just an episode in the one-sided show that is Test cricket. Over the last six years, the format has been incredibly skewed to the home side, highlighted incredibly by England’s humiliation of India, a team that knocked England off 4-0 in their last series in the subcontinent.

With more and more fans switching to the shortest format of the game due to shorter attention spans, Test cricket faces a battle to survive.

Since the beginning of 2012, away teams have won just 73 of 289 Tests (25.26%), and 29 out of 110 Test series. This includes India winning in familiar conditions in Sri Lanka, as well as the big guns enjoying some success away to the lesser Test nations. This year, though, it’s gone to another level it seems. South Africa beat India and Australia well at home, but got hammered in Sri Lanka. England haven’t won an away Test in what seems a lifetime, but thrash number one India on their own turf. West Indies hammered Bangladesh in a two Test series that lasted the length of a single Test.

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Change the location of each of these series, and the results will be the opposite.

So, why is it that we can almost guarantee the result before a series begins? What is the solution? Is it as simple as removing the toss?

Removing the toss in Test Cricket is a band-aid option

Michael Holding in commentary in the Lord’s Test was advocating for the removal of the coin toss in Test cricket.

I absolutely love Michael Holding as a commentator, but this on its own is not the solution to the ‘home-team domination’ conundrum.

Why? Because a rank turner or green-as-the-outfield pitch can be prepared to even out the playing field. Do you think India would prepare a beautiful day one subcontinent pitch for the away team to choose if they’d like to bat first? Same with Australia, England or anywhere else in the world.

The ICC should have independent personnel around the world to assess pitches, judging them on their ability to provide a competitive battle between bat and ball.

But, that’s a discussion for another day. In my next point, I will explore why removing the toss is just a band-aid solution.

More onus is on Test nations to better equip their players to perform overseas

This starts at domestic level.

Simply removing the toss from Test cricket, without domestic cricket properly exposing players to a range of different conditions, won’t contribute much to swinging the pendulum the way of away teams.

Australia is a fantastic example of this. Back in the day, each ground in the country had its own personality. Perth was very fast and bouncy, Brisbane a little less so, but still quick. Sydney would suit the spinners, and so too Melbourne and Adelaide in the latter stages of the Test match. What that meant was that players on the domestic circuit would be exposed to a range of conditions that test their technique and temperament.

It’s what helped make Australia brilliant everywhere.

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This is no longer the case, with every ground dishing up pitches so flat you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from a pancake.

And this has hurt Australia overseas.

Since 2012, they have won just two of 15 Tests in Asia, including whitewashes in India (2013) and Sri Lanka (2016), plus a drawn series in Bangladesh, a team they couldn’t be bothered hosting this year. Even more disappointing was their performance in South Africa this year on pitches they typically perform well on. However, coming from the flat pitches in the Ashes to the seaming ones in South Africa was a little too difficult to handle.

Would removing the toss seemingly cure Australia’s issues on the road? No.

As is the case with India, who are not playing the swinging ball late, under the eyes. Same with Bangladesh in West Indies, and South Africa against the turning (and non-turning) ball in Sri Lanka.

So, until players are properly groomed in domestic cricket, these issues will remain.

Prepare better for a Test series

It was certainly questionable that India played no tour games in South Africa before their Test series in January.

They paid the price, losing the first two Tests before bouncing back really well in the third. They face the same issue again in England, struggling to acclimatise well to conditions.

This is also the case with many other teams, getting into a Test series on the back of net sessions. It shouldn’t work that way.

Of course, the cricketing calendar is absolutely packed these days, which can hamper a team’s ability to prepare adequately enough for a Test series in foreign conditions. So, controversially, I think removing T20Is from the calendar is the way to go, to free up some space in the calendar for players to focus on red ball cricket.

What does this do?

It improves the Test cricket product. We’ll see better matches, which means people will watch, and broadcasters will want to get involved. This equates to money.

Yes, T20Is do bring dollars, especially for the lesser teams when they play big teams. However, a proper ODI League can ensure these teams get the right exposure, and the funds that come with it. There is plenty of white ball cricket going around, with thriving T20 leagues around the world.

Can extra room be made for better Test cricket? I sure think so.

Will it be the case? One can only hope. But, removing the toss is not the solution.

Charbel Coorey, owner of CricBlog: https://cricketblog2.blogspot.com

Twitter: @cric_blog

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