India cricket great and icon Sachin Tendulkar has weighed into the raging debate by vehemently opposing the proposed four-day Test format saying the five-day Tests remains the “purest form of cricket”.
A recent report in ESPNCricinfo stated that ICC’s cricket committee plans to recommend trimming Tests to four days from five for the 2023-2031 World Test Championship cycle.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) will in the coming months discuss reducing Tests to four days as part of structuring the global calendar beyond 2023.
The ICC wants to change the 143-year old five-day format to four days with more emphasis on limited-overs cricket for the next cycle but it has met with stiff resistance across the globe from leading stars.
The latest proposal, part of an effort to tackle the crowded international cricket calendar and save on costs, has divided players, many of whom consider Test cricket the gold standard.
Ever since the ICC, former and current cricketers have come out openly to have their say on the matter with Tendulkar being one of the strongest critic.
“There is T20, there is one-dayers and then there are T10 and 100-ball cricket. Test is the purest form of cricket. It should not be tinkered with,” Tendulkar said.
For a sport so closely linked with tradition, cricket has shown a remarkable ability to innovate in recent decades, introducing multiple forms of limited-overs cricket that have taken firm root.
Tendulkar fully understands that there’s a commercial aspect and audience interest attached to the game but he wants one format to remain the true Test of batsmanship.
The ICC wants to try out four-day Tests primarily to free up space in the crowded calendar and use that time for the commercially lucrative shorter formats.
“From a purist’s point of view and being an admirer of Test cricket, I don’t think it should be tinkered with. The format has to be played in the way it has been played for so many years,” Tendulkar was quoted as saying by PTI.
“The batsmen will start thinking that it is a longer version of limited overs match because the moment you bat till the second day lunch, you know that there’s only two and half days to go. That changes the thinking and dynamics of the game.”
Tendulkar also felt that taking away the fifth day will be detrimental to the spinners, who love to bowl on torn tracks on the final day of a Test match.
“Taking away the fifth day track from a spinner is like taking away the first day track from a fast bowler. There is no fast bowler in the world who wouldn’t want to bowl on a fifth day track,” Tendulkar said.
Current India skipper Virat Kohli also felt Test cricket should be left the way it is and it should not be altered with. He was so critical of the idea that he said he doesn’t endorse the proposal at all.
With four-day Tests “you are purely only talking about getting numbers in and entertainment, and I think the intent will not be right,” said the Indian captain.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said: “I am a fan of Test cricket going five days. The great draws of the game always go to five days”. This is despite Cricket South Africa coming up with an official policy to support four-day Test match cricket.
This past Tuesday, England all-rounder Ben Stokes made an emphatic case for the unique drama of five-day Test cricket this week – inspiring England to a series-levelling win against South Africa in the final overs of a dramatic contest.
His match-winning performance in Cape Town on Tuesday came at a time of intensifying debate over the future of the longest form of the game, which has been played since 1877.
By Gerald Dandah