The recent Test match between India and South Africa that ended in less than two days — the shortest Test match since 1932 — obviously provided enough grist for a heated debate. How can sports survive without a good verbal joust off the field? Players, coaches, commentators, sports journalists and fans all revel in it by pitching in with their “two cents worth” and more.
An incredible 23 wickets fell on the first day, with Mohammed Siraj bagging six of them — five in a single session. On Day 2, India were 154 for 4 at one stage and lost six wickets to end their innings at the same score.
After India won the match the conversation naturally shifted to the state of the pitch. First off the blocks was Rohit Sharma, Indian Captain, who quite rightly called out the double standards of the ICC match referees at the post-match press conference. He minced no words in saying that ICC match referees who routinely slammed spinner-friendly pitches in India were remarkably quiet over bouncy tracks outside India, which could actually be dangerous for batters despite their protective gear.
Sunil Gavaskar in characteristic bluntness said that Indian ground staff were always accused of preparing pitches that suited India bowlers, but ground staff abroad were always let off by saying that “they got it wrong”. Of course such benefit of doubt is never accorded to Indian ground staff.
But beyond this “us vs them” debate there is a larger issue at stake. A Test ending in less than two days is certainly not a good advertisement for the oldest format. It also hurts the commercial interests of both cricket boards and broadcasters – TV ad revenues and gate collections take a hit. At a time when franchise-based T20 cricket is forging ahead, having more “sporting” pitches where Tests last at least until the last session of the fourth day are desperately needed.