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Adversity of Test cricket

This truly reflects the effect that the limited-overs cricket has had on the game.

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Cricketer playing cricket
A cricketer in all white kit is ready to hit the ball coming his way. Pixabay

BY YAJURVINDRA SINGH

India are in the driving seat as regards the path to qualify for the World Test Championship final to be held in England in 2021. This trophy has a significant place in the history of cricket as this will be the first time that a Test team will be anointed and recognized as the World Champion.

The recent series victory against Bangladesh has put India way ahead in the points table. With a two-match series each, away from home against New Zealand and Australia and a five-Test match series at home versus England, India look like a certainty to be playing the final at Lords. Being the number one side at present, India looks very confident in all the departments of the game. A victorious Indian side puts a smile not only on the faces of millions of their followers but also on the faces of the sponsors whose commercial investment revolves around the success and failure of the Indian team.

Finally, world cricket did make space in their calendar for Test cricket. India hosted Bangladesh, whereas Australia and New Zealand are playing Pakistan and England respectively. West Indies too had an encounter with Afghanistan in Lucknow and the West Indian side won the match handsomely.

The one major factor which has stood out prominently in most matches has been the lack of quality and skills of many of the sides playing Test cricket. Apart from the big four — India, Australia, England and New Zealand — the cricket in the rest of the world has gone down to an abysmal level. The records in the last few years have shown that most of the matches have finished in four days or less. This truly reflects the effect that the limited-overs cricket has had on the game.

cricket ground
This image shows a cricket ground, where cricketers are playing. Pixabay

The batsmen all over the world seem to be at sea and they somehow also lack the patience to confront the conditions that prevail while playing proper cricket. One may blame the mind-set of a present cricketer in a fast-moving world, but one can also see a definite deterioration in the way they play and approach the game. The true recognition of a player is only through his performance in the conventional form of the game and that is Test cricket.

Cricketers do recognise this fact as their ultimate desire is to be successful at it. That is why one is surprised as to how the quality and standard of Test encounters have had such a steep decline.

This is the very reason that Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Babar Azam are put a notch above the rest. A good recent example of a cricketer being finally given his stripes was that of Rohit Sharma. His success as a Test opener gave a sigh of relief to his fans and followers as they can now with pride finally eulogize him. David Warner has done the same for his fans in Australia after his return to Test cricket and these two exciting batsmen are now branded as a part of the elite lot as well.

The recent Day/Night Test match in Kolkata between India and Bangladesh was a rousing success. The crowds were lured into the ground and with Sourav Ganguly, the present BCCI President, leaving no stone unturned, he was instrumental in creating just the right aura to glamourize Test cricket in his home town.

Unfortunately, the Bangladesh team did not have the fire power to match the strong, studded Indian outfit and so the match became a one-sided affair. The experimental pink ball did have a bit of exciting tale as regards its behaviour because of the change in conditions during the course of the match. The misty evening atmosphere, as one gathers, did have an issue as regards sighting the ball clearly at dusk. This is an area that requires to be taken seriously as the modern day batsman seems to somehow lack the basic skills of evading bouncers.

Cricketer with his Cricket bat
This image portray’s an animated version of a cricketer holding his bat. Pixabay

This still bewilders me as during our playing days with the fastest of the bowlers bowling not only in the match but also in the nets, sans helmet, very few of us ever got hit smack on the head the way one has seen in the last two decades. The concussion replacement rule is a joke and the quicker the ICC cricket committee erases it from their rule book, the better it will be for Test cricket. The skills and abilities of two cricketers can never be compared and so replacing one for the other is quite ridiculous.

The recent results of Test matches are showing how teams and individuals have lost the plot playing it. The bowlers are having a field day bowling to batsmen who seem to lack the technique and patience to play either pace, swing or spin, in even slightly helpful conditions for the bowler.

Sunil Gavaskar has repeatedly spoken on air as to how batsmen should give the first hour to the bowlers and then the rest of the hours will automatically belong to the batsman. But, unfortunately, not many have paid heed to his advice. This reminds one of the famous quote, “that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing field of Eton” by the Duke of Wellington after England won the war against Napoleon’s French army. The reason he said that was, because of the English quality of education that had made his men into good brave soldiers.

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Test teams are losing matches because their cricketers lack the character, quality and the capability to fight against all odds. A weak soldier or a cricketer may survive battles, but to win the war or a Test series, present cricketers need to become outstanding soldiers. Only then will they be able to withstand the hard knocks of Test cricket and be victorious.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer). (IANS)

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2019 is One of India’s Best Years in Cricket: Virat Kohli

Indian cricket in 2019 - A moment to remember

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Virat Kohli Cricket
Indian Cricket team captain Virat Kohli feels that 2019 was the best year for Indian cricket. Wikimedia Commons

BY YAJURVINDRA SINGH

Captain Virat Kohli’s final statement on Indian cricket at the end of the year was so true. He said, “2019 is one of India’s best years in cricket barring those 30 minutes at the World Cup.” If one reflects on the performance of Indian cricket in 2019 which started with a bang by beating Australia in a Test match series, for the first time, in Australia. This truly remarkable achievement by the Indian side not only gave it that much needed boost to their morale and confidence but also established them as the best Test side in the world.

There were a few defeats during the year but most of them were account of experimenting, resting senior players and giving opportunities to Indian players sitting on the bench.

The most significant moment that humbled the strong Indian cricket side and the year’s performances was their semi-final defeat against New Zealand in the World Cup. The Indian team had played extraordinarily well to head their group in the preliminary stage, losing only to the ultimate winners, England. Chasing a moderate total of 239 runs for victory, India’s formidable top order collapsed in just 30 minutes and were tottering at 24 for 4 even before the first 10 overs were bowled. India never recovered from that blow and their dream of winning another World Cup faded in the horizon.

India Cricket
The most significant moment that humbled the strong Indian cricket side and the year’s performances was their semi-final defeat against New Zealand in the World Cup. Wikimedia Commons

Looking back at the curtains now drawn for the year, this was perhaps the only blemish that tarnished the significant performances of the India side. The great West Indian side had a similar moment in the 1983 final when they lost to India in the World Cup. To them then, it looked like a total that they would normally chase without blinking an eyelid, but, it turned out to be their nemesis.

Cricket has these uncertain moments and the song, “one moment in time” sung by the wonderful singer Whitney Huston for the summer Olympics in 1988 held in Seoul, is so appropriate, not only for an individual but also for a team. These precious moments are all that one hopes and prays for, in the life of a sportsman. This is what finally establishes them and the team of being a winner or an also ran.

The South African cricket side is a good example of how mental pressure of failure could even affect future teams. They have on many occasions looked like a winning side in an ICC tournament and have failed to deliver due to several different reasons. The side is now branded in world cricket as “chokers” and this tag, unfortunately, has remained every time their side plays in another ICC World Cup tournament. They have in the last two decades produced some outstanding cricketers, but somehow lady-luck has never blessed them when they most need it to break out of the barriers of the past.

The year 2020 has the World T20 later in the year in Australia. India will be one of the likely tournament favourites, especially as they have two of the best T20 batsmen in Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as well as three of the top pace bowlers in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. At present, the likely Indian T20 team will comprise of a majority of the players who were part of their World Cup 2019 side.

Indian cricket team
The skills, confidence and capability of the Indian cricket team are well known. Wikimedia Commons

This is a major factor that concerns one. For India to be successful, they will need to forget those disastrous 30 minutes of their moment in time of the year 2019. The skills, confidence and capability of the Indian side are well known to one and all, but the team will be tested more on their mental rather than on their cricketing capabilities.

This is where the BCCI will need to play a significant part in ensuring that a mental coaching and strengthening is also an important part in the preparation of the side for the World Cup T20.

International cricket is played more in the mind than on the field. For them to be at the world stage, already makes them players who have the potential and skill to be there. With less than a dozen T20I games left in the Indian calendar before their first World T20 match on October 24, 2020, they not only require to fill the million dollar question that still prevails about the middle order batters, but also, about their mental preparation for the task ahead.

The IPL (Indian Premier League) will play an important part in the final composition of the Indian T20 side, but playing for a franchise is completely different from when one wears the Indian colours.

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With more than a billion people following every step of the teams’ progress and the added responsibility of playing for the nation, the pressures are as different as chalk and cheese.

One wishes the Indian team a super 2020, with victory over New Zealand and Australia in order to qualify for the final of the ongoing World Test Championship, as well as for them to bring the World T20 trophy home — a cup that they won in the inaugural year of 2007. (IANS)