Cricket enthusiasts around the world have been closely following the two-match Test series between India and South Africa, which commenced earlier this week. While the contest has showcased the dominance of South African pace bowlers and put India on the back foot with the early dismissals of key batters like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, the spotlight has shifted to a broader issue – the length of Test series.
Former India opener Aakash Chopra has raised a pertinent point about the essence of Test cricket and the significance of having substantial series to truly uphold the spirit of the longest format of the game. Chopra expressed his dissatisfaction with the two-match series format, emphasizing that anything less than a three-match series is a disservice to Test cricket.
“All the talk about protecting Test cricket and being its guardian does not mean we are doing what’s necessary. We need to walk the talk. We are playing a two-Test series because if teams play a single match, then it can’t be called a series. It has to be a minimum of two matches,” said Chopra on Jio Cinema.
Chopra’s argument resonates with the larger debate surrounding the scheduling of Test series. The two-match series format has become increasingly common, raising concerns about the depth and meaningfulness of such engagements. In comparison, popular cricketing nations like England and Australia routinely engage in five-match Test series, providing a more comprehensive examination of skill and resilience.
The former cricketer’s critique goes beyond the India vs South Africa series, extending to the overall structure of the World Test Championship (WTC) cycle. Chopra pointed out that in the current cycle, every country must play six series, with the term ‘series’ being a key operative word. The minimum requirement to qualify as a ‘series’ is to play two Tests. Consequently, there has been a proliferation of two-Test series, a trend that Chopra deems detrimental to the integrity of Test cricket.
“In the WTC Cycle…every country must play 6 series. ‘Series’ is the key operative word here. The minimum requirement to call any engagement a ‘series’ is to play two-tests. Therefore, you see a lot of 2-Test series (otherwise a lot of teams will be happy to play one-Test and move on),” he wrote in a post.
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Chopra’s concerns extend to the India-SA Test series, highlighting it as a particular case of injustice to the format. He emphasizes that the financial aspect does not rest with India, as the revenues generated from this tour belong to South Africa. However, the real cost may be the compromise on the quality and depth of the cricketing spectacle.
As cricket enthusiasts contemplate Chopra’s words, the broader question arises: Does Test cricket deserve more than just a minimum commitment? The spirit of Test cricket lies in its ability to challenge players and teams over an extended period. A longer series not only allows for a fair assessment of skill but also adds context, narrative, and drama to the contest.
The debate sparked by Aakash Chopra sheds light on the need to reevaluate the structure of Test series in international cricket. As custodians of the sport, cricket boards and governing bodies must consider the essence of Test cricket and its fans’ expectations. While financial considerations are crucial, preserving the sanctity of Test cricket should be the overarching priority. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the duration of Test series and ensure that each engagement truly serves the spirit of the game.