On Matters That Matter

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones

The Joy Of Test Cricket

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Rahul Dravid

The tough side of Dravid's character makes him one of India's batting greats.

Had Rahul Dravid abused the cricket administration it would have just been an understatement at the angst he must have felt for having been dropped from the ODI side after having been given just five innings after a gap of two years. In those five innings Dravid was the highest scorer with the highest strike rate (47 in 56 balls) in a match that India lost badly against Sri Lanka in Colombo. In the final that India won in Colombo Dravid made only 39 runs but more importantly he had a 95-run first wicket partnership with Tendulkar who made 138. He got two more innings in the Champions Trophy; where in the match against Pakistan he was the lone man standing amidst the collapse that started after Virat Kohli’s attempt to go for a lofted shot.

India could not clear the first hurdle at the Champions Trophy and Dravid who made 70 plus paid the price. Had he been in the Indian side that lost to the Aussies recently—not because they were outplayed but because they had fewer players who knew how to read the game and have the character to fight it out till the end—the result may have been different? What Ravi Shastri said after the 2002-03 Adelaide Test still holds true; he said that he considered only three people as India’s batting greats Gavaskar, Vishwanath, and Tendulkar and after the Adelaide Test he was ready to add the name of Rahul Dravid to the list.

One of the reasons for India’s failure to be a major cricketing force and not just a financial behemoth has been the commercial greed that is taking priority at the expense of the game. As long as cricket players and the game of cricket is primary there is no reason to worry about the big money coming into the game; this money will only benefit everyone associated with the game one way or the other. If the oldest and the truest form of the game—which goes on for 5 days without the guarantee of a result—remains robust and healthy like a loving, strong and committed marriage then there is no reason to worry about the slam bam affair of Twenty20. The worry for cricket, just like life, is that devoting too much time to the side dish could end up leaving no appetite for the main course.

The first official Test was played between Australia and England in Melbourne starting March 15, 1877. Australia won the timeless match by 45 runs and England squared the series by winning the next Test starting March 31, 1877, also at the MCG.

“One newspaper summed up the mood in an editorial on the day Lillywhite’s side set sail for home. ‘It shows that in bone as muscle, activity, athletic vigour, and success in field sports, the Englishmen born in Australia do not fall short of the Englishmen born in Surrey or Yorkshire.’
‘For the time being, wrote the Argus, we must forget we are Victorians and New South Wales and our geographical distinctions, and only remember that we are of one nation—Australia.’”

A history of over 132 years of Test cricket and India’s own history of over 77 years of Test cricket is a rich minefield where heroes can be found and their success and their follies relished. The moments that make history and the moments they defy history are the milestones that each cricketing nation cherishes in its own way. One good Test match gives a writer enough material for a book and it would be tough to write one on five years of Twenty20.

It was 32 for four today before the eighth over of the day was finished and India ended the day at 385 for 6 with Dravid unbeaten on 177 with 26 fours and a six at a strike rate of 70.51. Dravid’s knock oozed class and he went past 11000 Test runs to become the fifth-highest run-scorer in the history of the game.

With the financial balance tipping in its favour India now has the responsibility to ensure that Test cricket remains healthy the world over. The greatest player this nation has produced said this week when he completed 20 years of international cricket that 5 Test matches in a season is just too few.

A bit of Twenty20 and a few ODIs with Test tours as the primary focus should be the natural priority. The Tour de France is an annual bicycle race that approximately covers 3500 kilometres and it cannot be reduced to or compared to a 10 kilometre dash. Test cricket has its audience and with good result-oriented wickets it can compete well with the other two formats. Quantity is one thing and quality quite another and a genuine cricket fan just like a genuine cricket player knows what is what.

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