Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar said that pitches for Test cricket must be more bowler-friendly to restore the balance in the sport and also to keep the format lively.
Tendulkar who played 200 Test matches for India, scoring 51 hundreds in the process felt effort has to be made to keep the five-day format alive.
“We keep saying that Test cricket is dying and it needs to be revived. The pitch is the heart of Test cricket and if you have to revive it, you have to ensure the pitches are good,” Tendulkar told veteran journalist Sunandan Lele in an interview on his 47th birthday.
“In the limited-overs format, you get feeling that something is always on the cards. In every over, you see a boundary. But sometimes in Test cricket, the wickets are a bit dull, a bit flat. Bowlers know that they won’t trouble batsmen much on these wickets and even batsmen know that unless they play a rash shot, they won’t be dismissed. So, he plays cautiously. This makes the game slightly boring and the spectators don’t enjoy it so much,” he added.
“But if there is help for the bowlers in the pitch, something or the other will keep happening. Either the ball will swing, or turn or bounce. That will keep the spectator engaged. So, there must be bowling friendly wickets in Test cricket as the spectators can come and watch the match for five days and won’t get bored,” he continued.
Tendulkar believes it’s also important to have a format where batsmen are tested as the T20 format and the ODI format especially with the new rules largely favour the batsmen. Weighing in on the proposed four-day format for Test cricket, Tendulkar believed the approach taken to revive Test cricket was not the right one.
“I feel the proposed four-day format for Test cricket is definitely a wrong,” he said.
“Instead of reducing the number of days in a Test, the effort should be to improve the quality of the format. If the cricket that is being played is lively and not dull, I’m sure the spectators will turn up. Now, I feel sometimes the cricket is one-sided,” he added.
With the growth of T20 cricket, questions were raised about the relevance of 50-over ODI cricket. Tendulkar had proposed a fresh format for ODIs that involved have four innings of 25 overs each instead of the two 50-over ones. He felt many misinterpreted the proposal and couldn’t understand it.
“I had recommended a plan to ICC to keep ODI cricket relevant and it included the game being split into four innings of 25-overs each. But there was some misunderstanding as many thought teams will get to bat twice, but that was not the case. Teams will only get to bat once but their innings would be split into two innings of 25 overs each,” the 47-year-old said.
He cited three main reasons for the change in format. The first being that the 25-over innings format gives teams better chance to prepare for rain interruptions, it allows teams to be flexible with the strategies thus bringing more elements into the game and felt it negates the dew factor to a large extent.
Recalling the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy final, where India and Sri Lanka were forced to share the honours despite playing 118 overs across two days, Tendulkar felt the 25-over format would have led to a result.
“If there is a possibility of rain in the second half of the match, you can always plan your innings. You can try and score more runs like the T20 format in the first 25 overs even if you lose wickets, so that if the rain comes, you are in a good position. Similarly, even the chasing team can plan accordingly,” Tendulkar said.
Speaking on the dew factor that heavily tilts the balance in favour of the team batting second, the former Indian batsman felt the need to reduce the advantage a team gains.
“With dew kicking in, the team bowling second only has a ten percent chance of winning. That’s too much. In the 25-over format, the advantage is reduced and the game is fairer and lot less predictable,” Tendulkar said.
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