Test match critics would be having a ball in these times. And probably enough fodder from the ennui-generating performance from those privileged ones with the bat in their hands.
This is a day and age when the administrators have tampered with the ODI format enough to make it almost unrecognizable from where it was even a decade ago.
That, apart from others, is a pointer enough towards their desperation to keep the format relevant, almost wanting to re-script the interest among the fans.
Test cricket, on the other hand, and thankfully, has been kept unhampered. Despite the dwindling interest, in a format that has possessed an almost chess-like ability to pique its players, they have kept the surgeon’s knife away. At least for now.
But given the way some of the Test match tracks have behaved in recent times, it could well turn difficult for them to not interfere again. Or turn the switch off on the format completely.
Admittedly, the five-day format necessitates it to be a battle of attrition, one between the bat and the ball. But if the pitches in the ongoing UAE series become a template for how these get dished out, then the ICC may well have to jump into the fray.
In all the three Test matches played between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the best run-rate in a completed innings barely nudged up to three. The rest were all less than that.
Not too much of a problem there, but what made it a double-whammy was that the bowlers did not have anything to go for them as well on either pitch. They kept their lines and lengths and the batsmen retorted with plodding their way to obloquy. Nothing in the air, nothing off the surface.
Most battles within the war ended in stalemates. And had it not been for the consistently poor Sri Lankan batting, a 0-0 drawn series would have been a no-brainer.
The pitches were generally slow, almost harmless and laidback and in short, the basic grudge against such tracks is they are shorn of being bowling and stroke-play- friendly. Fair play to Junaid Khan and the other Pakistani bowlers, but on most occasions, it was the batsmen’s frailties that got them out.
Not only does that adversely affect the probability of having a result in a game but it takes away from the joy of watching this otherwise connoisseur’s delight .
The general refrain from the fans is that the T20 format and the overly done international calendar are responsible for the tiger-like decline in the high-quality bowling brethren. No doubt then that one can add these slow, spondylitis-inducing tracks to the list too.
Expecting every pitch to play to what is often described as ideal by the pundits, starting with some swing and bounce for the quickies, to easier batting conditions for the batsmen in the middle and then turn and unevenness for the spinners at the end, is agreeably not the easiest combination to attain.
The art of pitch-building is exactly that – an art. In it go many a factors and the DNA of every pitch is different from the other.
However, the sense that one gets from watching from the sidelines is that curators, if they err, prefer to do so on the side of allowing a seven-day Test match as opposed to having an early finish.
The reasons are unsurprisingly commercially-driven. And that seems to be hurting the format in general, and the bowlers in particular, hurtling both down an alley of no return.
It will not be a bad idea for the boards to realise the fact that spicing the pitches up, at the expense of a quick finish or two every series could make Test matches a spectacle for most of its lovers.