“A long long time ago
I can still remember how (the cricket) used to make me smile”
Yesterday, South Africa shellacked New Zealand by an innings and 27 runs inside three days.
Sometime tonight, or maybe tomorrow, Australia is going to complete their three match whitewash of Sri Lanka.
What it comes down to is there are a couple decent Test sides right now (England, maybe Australia, maybe Pakistan), one really magnificent Test side (South Africa) and a whole lot of really mediocre to terrible test sides (India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, The West Indies, Bangladesh).
What is going on?
Over on Twitter, Addie Kumar suggested that “weak test sides” is doublespeak for countries that don’t perform in alien conditions; while I have argued in the past that there is a direct correlation between Test success and number of Tests played (duh-doy). Meanwhile Devanshu of Deep Backward Point thinks more Tests is not the answer, but rather teams should only play teams of their same skill level, in order to improve. Throwing New Zealand to the South African lions, so to speak, does no one any good. Have them play Sri Lanka or Bangladesh or even Ireland instead. (See his comment on my post linked to above.)
No matter what the answer is, it is killing the format.
Twenty/20 is not killing Test cricket; Test cricket is committing slow ritual suicide.
The Test cricket future could be what we have now in the La Liga, the English Premiere League, and until recently, the Scottish Premiere League: a two horse race, year in and year out.
That, to me, is troubling.
Just how bad are some Test sides?
A simple look at their 2012 form tells the story:
(Note: “Win Percentage” is an American convention. It is simply the number of wins divided by the number of total games and usually expressed as a three digit decimal, not a percentage. If you look up any table in America, you will see it. It is what I am comfortable with, and so that is what I use. If it offends your math sensibilities, then I apologize. W/L is a Cricinfo stat. Number of wins divided by number of losses.)
– Only one team finished undefeated (South Africa).
– Only four teams won more games than they lost (Australia, Pakistan, The West Indies, and South Africa)
– Only three teams finished “above .500” (Australia, Pakistan, and South Africa)
– Despite England’s recent resurgence in India, I do not see them mentioned in any of the three bullet points above.
Now, the above is a very small sample size, I will admit that, and using the American convention of “winning percentage” is problematic as it does not account for draws (in American sports, there is no such as a draw), but the numbers do not lie: 2012 was a terrible year for most Test nations, and it could be the death knell for the format overall, unless teams begin to improve their form – which is far more expensive for most national boards, especially when the format is no longer financially viable outside of England.
In 40 years I think we will look back at 2012 and agree that’s there where Test cricket started truly dying.
Let’s hope I am wrong.