For anyone who followed cricket through the 2000s, they were lucky to witness Test batting at its absolute pinnacle. The sport was graced by high class top-order players, followed by some swashbuckling middle order batters and some solid hitters lower down the order. But post 2010, it feels like more often we see the ball dominating the bat in Test cricket all around the world as we saw in the ultimate Test, the World Test Championship Final.
The conditions were difficult to bat in Southampton especially with the weather around but apart from New Zealand’s captain, Kane Williamson, we didn’t see any batter out there who was ready to grind it out in the middle. We see the modern day batter trying to hit their way out of trouble when the going gets tough and more often than not it doesn’t work out. So the question we’d like to answer here in this blog is what are the reasons behind the absence of the good old art of patient Test batting in modern cricket. Let’s explore some of the potential reasons.
INFLUENCE OF LIMITED OVERS CRICKET
With the way international cricket is scheduled, it feels like more emphasis is given to limited-overs cricket. Limited-overs cricket is mostly played on flat decks all around the world and that’s predominantly why some of the batters’ techniques are honed to be flat-track bullies. When the ball starts to do something in the air or off the pitch then the batters are found wanting and their fragile techniques are exposed. With so much limited-overs cricket in an international cricketer’s schedule, these weak techniques were always on the cards. The batters coming through the ranks are also dreaming of getting a T20 League contract and for that, your bat swing is more important than your defensive technique.
LACK OF PREPARATION TIME
Let’s take the example of this recently concluded World Test Championship Final. New Zealand came into this match at Southampton on the back of two Tests against England in England whereas the Indian team had to quarantine for a few days back in Mumbai and then again in Southampton. Post their quarantine was over, they had just one intra-squad match simulation and were straight into a Test match. The lack of preparation time was quite evident with the way India played in this game. At the same time, New Zealand seemed more accustomed to these conditions post their series against England. It was sort of an unfair advantage to the Kiwis which they capitalised on massively in this game.
However, this isn’t a one-off situation. Travelling teams barely get any practice games in the country and are just put into the first Test without much preparation. Earlier the travelling team would reach the country good three weeks before the start of the Test series and play a couple of practice matches in the buildup to the Test series. Sometimes they would also have matches in between the official Tests to give a chance to the squad players to show their talent. It would be a proper tour for the visiting team and none of that is possible in the modern-day.
LACK OF TEST SPECIALIST
If you take a closer look at the squads of the top international sides then you’d find that most of their players are multi-format players who are supposed to adapt their game every match depending on the format they are playing in. Some of these players are also on a high paying Indian T20 League contract and the opportunity to concentrate on Test match batting is limited. Someone like India’s Cheteshwar Pujara who is considered as a Test specialist also has an Indian T20 League contract and is constantly trying to improve his T20 game.
The game now has three full-fledged formats with all requiring different skill sets to be successful. So the boards should look to demarcate the requirements very clearly between these three formats and look to find specialists for each format because that surely is the way forward for this sport.