Tea-break for Chennai

The ICC and the BCCI seem to have come up with a crafty plan to save Test cricket by basically killing its competitor through, er, overkill.

As per this strategy, we have three back-to-back T20 cricket tournaments (Asia Cup, World T20 and the IPL) that roughly involve 3672 matches over three months, so that by the end of it most of us be will already be looking wistfully forward to a Test match, even if it is between India and Sri Lanka, where the first innings of the team batting first ends on the third-day’s afternoon at a scoring rate of 1.2 runs per over and, worse, the commentary is mostly by Laxman ‘Irritating’ Sivaramakrishnan and Russel ‘I am Even More Irritating’ Arnold.

But whenever there is a talk of reviving the fortunes of Test cricket, the one question that invariably gets asked is: ‘How do you explain a Test draw to the Americans?’ Like duh! But why should we? I mean first let the Americans explain how they play the 46 minutes of a 48-minute NBA game quite normally and then complete the last two minutes in roughly one hour.

Also, before elaborating on Test draws to anyone, the ICC first needs to explain to people who already follow cricket as to how the current Test rankings work. This is what has happened after the last two international Test series:

1. England defeats South Africa in South Africa —> India becomes the No.1 Test team.

2. Australia defeats New Zealand in New Zealand —> India become the No.2 Test team.

3. Shahid Afridi says he is rethinking his plan to retire.

Okay, the third one is beyond anyone’s comprehension, that is most certainly including Afridi’s. But the first two are bizarre. A team gets crowned and then dethroned when it is not even in the equation. I think you have to put it down to extreme El Nino.

But it is just not Test cricket rankings, ICC may also want to have a relook at this specific law concerning tea intervals: “If either 9 wickets are already down when 2 minutes remain to the agreed time for tea, or the 9th wicket falls within this 2 minutes, or at any time up to and including the final ball of the over in progress at the agreed time for tea, then, notwithstanding the provisions of Law 16.5(b) (Completion of an over), tea will not be taken until the end of the over that is in progress 30 minutes after the originally agreed time for tea, unless the players have cause to leave the field of play or the innings is completed earlier”.

Is the above passage the crypto code to launch the ICBMs stationed at strategic locations? Quite possible. This is perhaps why Test players, not wanting to take any chance, break out for lunch or tea intervals on the dotted time even if the actual period of play before it amounted to just 5 minutes. They wouldn’t want to be seen as a reason for triggering missile wars between nations.

But whether Test cricket regains popularity or not, the simple fact is that it has its task cut out in matching the excitement of T20 cricket. For instance, even before the start of World T20 next month in India, there is all round suspense –- this is the essential beauty of the shortest version of the game – whether Delhi will host any match or not. And since this involves the DDCA — the only thing in this Earth that is even more unpredictable than Shahid Afridi — you can’t be sure whether the matches are on or not even after the captains are done with the toss.

Anyway, thanks to the three non-stop T20 tournaments, someone like M S Dhoni or Ashwin or Jadeja may well have to sweat it out for a good part of two months (out of the 3 months), which when converted to man days of actual work, would run to a staggering 30 to 40 hours. Seriously, that is how much they will be working in a true sense over the next three months for which some of them will be earning more than what you and I can manage in our entire life. This is why people actually take to cricket even when fully knowing that it is run by the ICC.

The World T20 this time around will also see the women’s games being held simultaneously, and this is a pretty smart move on the part of the game’s organisers to drive home the point that there is actually a women’s version of World T20. Otherwise, the viewers interest is expected to be no more than that for an India-Sri Lanka Test series.

Finally, Chennai, a popular and regular venue, will not play host to any of the World T20 (men’s) and IPL matches. While the rest of cricket centres get to enjoy top-flight live cricket entertainment, we in Chennai will deem this to be something akin to a tea-break, probably mandated by the above ICC rules.