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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Set Norms for Tests

The Australian media is clearly upset at India having managed to rank first among countries playing Test cricket. The Australian press may not have been so caustic about the fewer test matches compared to the one-day internationals (ODIs) and the Twenty-20s that Team India has been playing at the behest of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had Australia not slipped from its pre-eminence to the third place after South Africa and had the world’s top-ranking Test team not been a brown-skinned one. The apartheid in cricket has been a long-standing one despite the visible fact that South Africa had been kept out of international cricket for many years for being racist. This decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) had been an unavoidable and politically correct one, because at that point of time there would have been no world cricket if South Africa had been allowed to play international matches. But much of the real apartheid in cricket is visible in the composition of the South Africa cricket team; in the leniency with which the ICC tackles issues like sledging on the pitch (mainly because the principal culprit is White Australia); and in its predilection to find fault with the bowling actions of Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and West Indians rather than with those of White players. So it is with the ICC’s treatment of cricket umpires. It is as though the White umpires can do no wrong.

The thrust of the Australian media’s allegation is that the BCCI has managed to get India at the top position of Test cricket merely by getting it to play fewer Test matches than ODIs and Twenty-20s. The other implied allegation is that the BCCI will strive to retain India’s latest ranking by getting Team India to play only one or two test series in the next two years. India will tour Bangladesh for two Tests in January next year and play three Tests against New Zealand in November 2010. “A scheduled three-Test series against world No. 2 South Africa has been cancelled, denying all cricket supporters of a major series that would have had significant impact on the rankings. Instead, the Proteas will play five one-dayers,” laments The Sydney Morning Herald. The newspaper goes on to say: “They won’t admit it, but the fixtures are determined purely by television revenue. Indian broadcast moguls are not interested in Tests because they rate poorly — as indicated by the recent survey — while ODIs and Twenty-20s push their numbers through the roof.” The newspaper adds that there is “increasing pressure from the BCCI — which sells matches for a handsome profit to television networks — to scrap tests for more ODIs and Twenty-20s.” This is a situation all over the world and reflects the evolution that has overtaken the game: people have no time for five-day Tests. Empty galleries during Test matches all over the cricket-playing world are a clear indication of declining interest in Test cricket. Cricket organizers cannot be expected to go on subsidizing loss-making Test matches as though Test cricket were some kind of charity. This being the case, the media would do much better to insist on the ICC to fix a norm of how many Test series (of how many matches each) are mandatory for every Test-playing country over a two-year period. The ICC must also stipulate that any Test-playing country would cease to be recognized as such if the required number of Test matches were not played. This would make gratuitous adverse remarks by the media of frustrated countries like Australia quite redundant. THE SENTINEL

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