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The End of Conservative Cricket

December 31, 2009

Test matches will disappear from cricket by the year 2020, and ironically, because of 20Twenty. After Pakistan’s frustrating loss against Australia today, batsman Mohammad Yousuf warns that Twenty20 cricket will ruin Pakistan’s game. He says:

“Because of Twenty20 cricket no player knows how to stay at the wicket anymore.Β Until players do not play with discipline and play ball to ball and leave balls they are supposed to we will struggle in ODIs, let alone Tests. If you are going to slog all the time what is the point? It is necessary that Pakistanis, the media, the board, the fans realise that we play as little Twenty20 as possible.”

Mohammad Yousuf is asking everyone to limit Twenty20 cricket at a time when it’s popularity is on the rise, Pakistan is the reigning World Champion and undoubtedly has the best players the game has seen (Afridi, Razzaq, Ajmal, Gul). He’s basically making a case for conservative cricket: or getting back to the basics of Test.

In Test’s even if you’re pitched a full toss at above average speed and there’s no one at long on or square leg, the skilled batsman refrains from smashing it out of the park.

Reason being the risk of getting out supersedes the worth of a six. However, that kind of discipline is the exact antithesis of 20Twenty cricket where you are required to play each ball as if it’s a potential six. But having the sense to resist potential sixers is but one part of the batting discipline needed in traditional cricket. It’s an overall psychological discipline where batsman must with extreme patience and consistency just hold one’s wicket. To do that, over after over for 5 days, knowing that the match could wind up in just a draw requires an extreme endurance that few batsman posses. In fact some of the best batsmen in the game who have mastered this don’t even play ODI’s anymore, like Rahul Dravid. Case in point, most teams don’t have players who specialize in Test, Dravid is actually a rare case. Mohammad Yousuf could then be on the right track: are players losing an edge in Test, and perhaps even skill by playing 20Twenty cricket?

20Twenty is the American equivalent of Home Run Derby: the game simply requires batsman to smash anything and everything out of the park. 8th man down must carry at least a 100% strike rate to give a team the depth required to be competitive in the game.

It’s less about psychological discipline, discerning batting or even batting skills for that matter. Because if the aim is to slog, you can take a whack at just about anything pitched your way. It requires a lot of power and little else. Anyone with training and enough arm strength to smack the ball around can be fairly successful. There aren’t rewards for consistency, patience or discipline. In fact, those qualities are counter productive in 20Twenty. In Tests you score runs by first discerning which balls are safe, whether that be after 5 or 50 overs, and then you nudge, or direct the ball into anticipated gaps.

It’s a whole different ball game, as they say in the States. So is Mohammad Yousuf correct in calling for a limit to 20Twenty? The conventional part of me who tends to resist change says yes. But the more spontaneous, forward thinking side of me says, hey, if that’s the natural progression of the game and Tests are inevitably obsolete, bring on a few more Shahid Afridi’s !

πŸ˜‰

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6 comments

  1. good coverage πŸ™‚

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  2. Really true, Real cricket is only test cricket, T20 will make short age of players. thats why i m not like T20 But tests. i have a very little love for OneDay Cricket. but i love to watch test Cricket, no matter that test is too long and boring, but its true that you can watch real cricket in test only

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  3. i like the video, Srilankan umpire was playing for Pakistan as well πŸ˜€

    Agree with Yousuf though, t20 can damage the game, but the fun is there in t20. so we need to keep our fingers crossed for coming 2010 t20 in Windies πŸ™‚

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  4. Zainab, you have hit the nail right on the head. That is exactly what ails Pakistan cricket – trying to play every game, whether Test or ODI – like a T20.

    There’s no doubt that the 20 overs version has brought into the game a special kind of verve and excitement – something the it lacked because of its inherently subdued nature. Obviously T20 attracts the youngsters who love a thrilling and fast-paced game, but it is negatively affecting the very spirit of the classical, original version of cricket.

    One can very well understand the dilemma that captains like Muhammad Yusuf are in because it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to restrain even their best batsmen from trying to hit every ball for a six.

    The kind of street cricket most boys in Pakistan grow up on, specially with their use of taped tennis balls and the urge to hit every ball big, prepares them for nothing else but the T20 version. That is why Pakistanis are so good T20 players and are current world champs.

    The best route for all cricket playing nations, specially the top ones, would be to have two sets of teams – one playing only Tests and ODIs and the other specialising in T20s.

    If Pakistan cricket is to retain its place in the top world order, it needs to reinvent itself – and it better start doing it now!

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  5. Well,each form of the game has its own merits.It’s the adaptability factor that makes the difference.Remember how vehemently one day cricket was opposed by world cricket body at its inception!rather all cricket boards were unanimous in its opposition. Thank God the accptance of one day cricket by the cricket boards has been amazingly free of any fuss.
    I’ll beg to disagree with Muhammad Yousaf,the future of test cricket is as secure as that of football or hockey.The problem is only for Pak team which unfortunately is not getting enough test cricket.Just recall, never before so much test cricket was being played the world over.Most of the rubbers span over five tests n in certain cases seven tests are being played in a series.
    The requirement is that we should either be able to adapt quickly to the changes or have different teams for different formats of the game.This is happening the world over and we should’ve no hesitation in making our options more flexible.One thing we must remember is that Test Cricket is the mother of all crickets.Knowledge of the basics of cricket is a pre_requisite for all forms of game n these basics can best be learnt through the long form of cricket only.As long as the long form of game remains an integral part of domestic cricket,we need’nt worry.We’ve abundant talent to make more than one teams for each form of the game.Our problem is at organizational level n not at players level.
    Coming back to the future of test cricket at international level,to my mind there is absolutely no threat to it in forseeable future.Parallel to this, one day cricket n T20 will also flourish and none of these will be a threat to the other form.

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  6. Technically Yousuf is right since Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure is slowly drifting towards shorter version of the game. Quaid e Azam Trophy is rearly being followed since many of the stars try to avoid it and even players are rearly being selected on its performance. Had Quaid e Azam Trophy been the criteria to select players then players like Saeed Bin Nasir, Riffatullah Mohmand and fast bowler Anwer Ali could have got selectors nod for a longer version of the game. And we could not have seen players such as Faisal Iqbal, M Wasim, Asim Kamal, Taufiq Umer etc sitting outside. Moreover, we are simply not playing test the way first tier nations play so performance and subsequent selection criterias would continue to be erratic.

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