Why I love Test Matches?

If there are sports as fast as hockey and football which can get pretty exhaustive and a real test of stamina for players as they hardly get any break in a game, there sits Test Cricket on the other side where your stamina and skills are tested, but in a totally different way. Test Cricket is the longest form of cricket, where two teams play over five days, and sometimes even those five days fails to produce a result. Nevertheless, it has its own following and has been in existence since 1877. It puts the players’ skills, patience, fitness and stamina to utmost test over the five days.

Waiting is a very important part of test cricket. Waiting everyday for a 40 minute lunch and a 20 minute tea forms an integral part of the day. Apart from that, there is more waiting, for the openers to settle in, for the ball to get old, and then waiting for 80 overs to take the new ball. The batsman wait for the ball to stop swinging, while the spinners wait for the ball to start spinning. The bowlers wait for the batsmen to make a mistake, and the batsmen wait with their shots till the bowlers are tired.

A sight only possible in Test Cricket

A sight only possible in Test Cricket

Twists and Turns

A test match can turn a match over its head many times over the period of 5 days. Every session gives both teams the chance to show their talent and come back into the game. This way it is a real test of skills and only the best team will win at the end. Lucky performances don’t matter as much as in ODI and T20 cricket. There is ample proof of this as teams have won after having to follow on or being completely outplayed in the first innings. No other sport perhaps can give such thrills.


Test cricket, more than anything else, is the test of patience of the players. Ishant Sharma’s spell to Ponting in Perth in 2008 was a testimony for that. A bowler has to bowl long spells and really bring out his talents to the table to get the batsman out. There is no hurry or run rate issues and the batsman will not play any rash shots. The batsman will also wait for the bowlers to get tired out and the ball to get old before playing their shots. In this way, it is more about playing time and testing the patience of the opposition which makes Test Cricket so intriguing to watch.


Although it might seem like a slow game, it never goes down in intensity. The concentration and focus which players need to put in, and the fighting spirit which brings out the best in many players, is a real treat to watch. Players like Rahul Dravid, Steve Waugh, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble are a result of this unwavering focus and never ending determination on the cricket field.

That's why they say that the defensive shot is the most important

That's why they say that the defensive shot is the most important


Playing continuously for five days, sometimes under very harsh weather (like in Chennai) requires great level of fitness and character to survive, let alone play. Many of the players to score a century in Chennai have suffered cramps and dehydration, but it has also brought out some of the best innings and test matches ever played. When a bowler has to bowl 40 overs a day and a batsman might need to bat out more than 10 hours, every muscle in your body will be tested and is a big challenge for not only the players, but also the support staff.

Those who say Test Cricket is dead perhaps have never realized what cricket is. The contest between bat and ball, the constant struggle to wait before the other side makes a mistake, and the never ending twists and turns it brings, with the emotions it brings out from players as well as spectators, make it the ideal ‘Test’ of a player’s skills, and also their patience. Only test cricket can create great records such as Australia’s 16 consecutive test wins, and only test cricket can bring out matches like the Calcutta Test in 2001, or the Adelaide Test of 2003, or Headingley in 2002. Only test cricket can bring out heroes like Gavaskar, Dravid, Laxman, and Kumble. And cricket would certainly be poorer without the presence of players of this stature.

Will this India v England series live up to the hype?

This series is certainly the most awaited series for quite some time for me. If the India v Australia series last year was legendary (where I watched two days of test cricket in a stadium), and the India v South Africa series was termed as the clash of the titans, this series has the anticipation like none. Maybe it is because of the landmarks which the first test of the series marks, as this would be the 2000th Test Match ever played and the 100th between India and England. Sachin Tendulkar will be looking to complete a century of centuries and it will be Duncan Fletcher’s 100th test as coach.

Apart from that, there is also the fact that the No 1 spot is on stake in this series. The first match at Lords also marks the return of Dravid to his debut ground 15 years after, when he sparkled with a 95 alongside another debutant Saurav Ganguly who scored a century that day. The number 1 team playing the number 3 team, who defeated Australia easily in the Ashes, in their home ground should make it a cracker of a series. Add to it the fact that there are 4 test matches in a series after a long time will make for a evenly and toughly fought battle between these two teams.

Watching a test match sitting in a jam-packed stadium was super fun

Watching a test match sitting in a jam-packed stadium was super fun

History of India in England

If you see the last three series India have played in England, it has marked the emergence of Dravid and Ganguly in 1996 where India lost 1-0, it marked the promotion of Dravid into the league of greatness in the 2002 series where he scored 602 runs in 6 innings at an average of 100+ and the series proved to the world that the Indian middle order is the best in the world. Add to this emergence of Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh ably supporting Anil Kumble in this series. It also marked the emergence of Saurav Ganguly as an enigmatic leader who showed the world that he is here to stay. The 4 test series in 2002 was tied 1-1, an achievement at that time.

When India came back to England in 2007, they were led by Rahul Dravid. And if Ajit Agarkar managed to hit a century at Lords in 2002,  it was Anil Kumble’s turn in 2007. We won the series 1-0 that year, mostly due to team unity and partnerships and not any big individual performances. With Anil Kumble being India’s only centurion in the series, the more important stats are that India scored 14 half centuries and had 16 half century partnerships in the series, making sure England never got two quick wickets.

Waiting to watch them in action

Waiting to watch them in action

Will this series live up to the hype?

This series will be the first time many Indian players play on England soil, as indeed it will be the last time Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar will be seen playing in England. Add to that the non-availability of Sehwag, the most destructive opening batsman in world cricket today, and you have a series on your hands. England are perhaps in their best form of the moment, and most of their players are fit and in good form. India have been slow starters abroad, and playing England at home will not be easy. But I hope for a tightly fought series, and it will a tough test for players from both the sides as they will be facing quality opposition and that might just bring out the best in them resulting in a truly scintillating display of Test Cricket.

Key Players

For India, a lot of depends on how well Gautam Gambhir adapts to England where he has never played before. With Sehwag not playing, the responsibility on Dravid and Laxman will be more to cushion in case of collapses and pressure situations. How Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh bowl to Strauss, Trott and Peterson will decide who will hold the honors at the end of the day.

For England, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann will lead their attack and test the Indian batsman to the max. India should not take Swann lightly as he is the best spinner in the world as per ICC rankings and will be no pushover. The form of Strauss and Trott has been amazing over the last two years and dismissing them will take a real test of skill and patience for the Indian bowlers.

If the umpiring is upto the mark and the weather does not play spoilsport, we might witness on of the most competitive series in recent times. Let the best team win.

Two Teams, 13 Days, and Totally Opposite Results

India and SA - Top 2 in ICC Rankings

South African cricket team is on tour to India these days. This included a 2 test series which just concluded 1-1. South Africa won the first test by an innings and 6 runs, threatening India’s number 1 position in the ICC rankings. But India came back strongly in the second test to defeat South Africa by an even bigger innings margin, thus retaining their ranking at the top of the table. My point is how can two teams playing cricket with the same players, under same conditions and within 3 days of each other, produce totally opposite results in the two matches. And this had happened many times before and continue to happen in bilateral series, two matches held closely bringing very contrasting results.

So what factors decide which team wins a game. The team composition and the form of the players, the ground and pitch conditions, the home-away factor or is just about the team who handles the pressure and the mind game better. In the aforementioned India-SA series, the players were same, their form could not have changed much in 3 days, the conditions at both the venues were very similar, Graeme Smith (SA’s captain) won the toss in both the matches and batted first, but the results were exactly opposite. Or is it just some strategies that decide the outcome of the match depending on whether they work on that specific day or not.

South Africa totally batted India out in the first test and were looking to do so again in the second test, when Zaheer and Harbhajan got some quick wickets in the third session of the first day. Was it Harbhajan who did something different, or were the African batsmen overconfident after the huge win in the first test? Or was it just luck that Harbhajan’s tricks worked that day and not in the first test. But that this session was the difference between the two test matches is sure, and had SA managed to bat in the 3rd session like they had done earlier, India would have been no more in the number one position.

You might say India adopted, created new strategies to get the SA batsmen after the first test debacle, and they work. Agreed, players make strategies, learn from their mistakes, and Indians must have done so after the first test. But what I am contesting is the totally different results. If SA would have one the first match by 100 runs and India the second one by 150 runs, it would have been ok. When the top two teams fight, you expect close matches and close results. But you don’t expect a innings defeat to either side in two matches being played. An innings defeat means one team’s total domination over the other, and skills / talent to get such domination cannot change over 3 days.

If skills, talents, players, strategies were not the reason for these two opposite results, what were? Does it only boil down to pressure in the end? Does how a team handles the pressure of a game, how it copes with the various ups and downs during the match decide the fate of the match? Is it only the ability to cope over pressure that make some players and teams click on one day and flop on another? In the end it seems cricket still remains a game which is played in the mind as much as it is played on the field.

Sometimes things go as planned, but the biggest test of players and a team comes when it faces a tough opposition and when your plans don’t work. You might have the best batsmen in the world, but if it your bad day, you can lose your tail in less than 50 runs, as has happened so many times with India. You might have one of the best captains and some good positive players, but how you react to your lows will decide whether you win or lose a match. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” — very rightly said by John A. Shedd and the same looks true for players and teams, if you are never tested, you will never know how good you are.

So the recent series showed that the Indian team is not just number one by fluke, and it has the talent and skills to bounce back and turn things around. That is the stuff of champions, and I am proud that I can call my team that 🙂