In what has been a great season for Test cricket, fortunes for most teams swung one way and then the other. Even top ranked teams were not spared the ignominy of having to eat humble pie on the rollercoaster ride. With the status of Test cricket playing nations in such flux, there is one consensus: the level of domestic cricket must be strengthened worldwide.
It seems like the wrong thing to say on the back of a season of busy, eye catching Test cricket that has seen so much drama and high action. While it is true that Test cricket has perhaps had one of its best seasons since the advent of Twenty20 a decade ago, the truth of the matter is that one of the reasons that has made Test cricket interesting was partly because while some of the lower ranked teams fancied their chances, the top ranked teams were far from consistent, stumbling and occasionally making for huge rung losses across the ICC’s Test cricket rankings.
With the ICC World Test championship on the horizon, slated to begin at the end of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England, one would think that fluidity across the ranks would only make the championship more open ended, but when it comes to the quality of the contest, even the teams at the top would contend that they would like to face a full strength, in form team rather than settle for a compromised, second string opposition.
To that end, it makes sense that while the anticipation for the world championship contests grows, cricket boards individually and collectively must take the responsibility to review and restructure the state of their domestic cricket. At the present time, most players that make the international cut rarely find themselves in domestic cricket to uplift the game and as in recent controversial moments, forced other players who have toiled consistently through the domestic cricket circuit for a privileged spot only at the business end of a tournament.
At the moment, even teams like India would like to believe that they have a plethora of resources and replacement players. But the truth of the matter is most teams have played musical chairs with some pivotal positions such as that of the openers as well as the important no.3. Rather than it be a competition for places given the quality of cricket, team decisions often boiled down to which player failed less and ironically at a time when no player, particularly in the top three, was a surefire when the next match began. It is something that has ailed India as well as England and Australia.
Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, went as far as to suggest that England’s shock series surrender to the West Indies was a case of batsmen playing too many loose shots, a telling sign from their inability to shift from the shorter formats. While not all England cricketers have agreed with the coach’s contention, the fact remains that players these days not only play far less domestic cricket but also, find that their cricket boards and themselves included are not interested in having even one tour match ahead of a crucial Test series which does not leave time for acclimatization or for the team’s think tank to have an ace or two up their sleeve in terms of decision making.
A close content is always a welcome sign. However, when the quality of the game being played is being steadily diminished, not only is the underdog being denied the opportunity to raise the bar but also, the complacency that sets in in for the top teams could then spell trouble for the sport as a whole when redundancy sets in.