How good is it to be the king of a province that oneself only wishes to abandon?
Somewhat similar is the case with the Indian cricket team and its ascendancy to the top spot of the Test arena, after the recently concluded three-match Test series against Sri Lanka, which the former won 2-0.
Though the team has accomplished the feat of climbing to the topmost position of the ICC Test Rankings after putting up a real good show against the Lankan Tigers (the performance is something which one must not forget to acknowledge and appreciate), it is ironical that they will be playing just two matches of the pristine format in the next 11 months to come, and that too against a team which holds the bottom-most position in the rankings.
India’s rising to the Test pinnacle means nothing unless they play adequate matches to at least sustain the position for a substantial length of time. And frankly, playing just two matches with the least ranked Test team will do no good.
According to the system of Test rankings, India will lose its crown to South Africa or Australia in no time if the latter win all their forth-coming Test matches.
Moreover, it is hard to celebrate the achievement of being the number one Test team, when India itself only promotes the rise of T20 cricket.
Reports in some of the Australian newspapers claim that ‘India rule Test arena while trying to kill it’.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald flashed that, ‘It is incredible that India, long seen as promoting the death of Test cricket by driving the proliferation of Twenty20 matches, has reached the sport’s pinnacle.’
No one can contradict that point as it is true that due to the Indian Premier League and the Champions League T20, which are the brain-children of BCCI itself, have occupied a lot of space in the cricket calendar.
Let us support the conviction with a statement released by Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) chief executive Gerald Majola a few days back, where he cited IPL as one of the reasons for cancelling the three-match Test series against India.
“Next year’s schedule is very crowded with the Indian Premier League and the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean. So we agreed with the Board of Control for Cricket in India that next year’s tour would be ODIs only,” Majola said in a statement.
Had the matches been organised, India would have added a couple of more Tests to its timetable. However, it is now learnt that the Indian cricket board has approached the CSA once again so as to accommodate two Tests in the tour schedule, and may also cut down the seven-match ODI series to five if needed.
The Australian media also accused the BCCI of focusing more on maximising profits with the help of television viewing and not paying heed to the importance of Test cricket.
‘The outrageous absence of home Tests for such a length of time underscores the problems faced by the traditional format. They won’t admit it, but the fixtures are determined purely by television revenue. Indian broadcast moguls are not interested in Tests because they rate poorly - as indicated by the recent survey - while ODIs and Twenty20s push their numbers through the roof,’ the SMH read.
It is true that the pressure from BCCI has forced the ICC to constantly scrap Test series from the cricket calendar and replace it with meaningless ODI and T20 matches in India, so as to benefit the already richest cricket board with some more <i>moolah</i>.
India’s double-standards of promoting T20s while enjoying the bliss of wearing the Test crown has been ridiculed heavily by former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott.
“How ridiculous is that? How can you judge India’s performance over the next 11 months?” Boycott said.
He said the ICC ranking system should not be considered accurate unless all the Test playing nations play each other home and away equal number of times.
Boycott said that though he has no qualms with India being on the top currently, as they have played well in the past few months, it is ICC’s flawed system of ranking teams that needs to be revised.
“It (ranking system) can never be taken literally or accurately. Doesn’t matter which country is at the top, because there is no fair way at the moment of all the countries playing each other the same number of times. So don’t get sucked into believing that the ranking holds true for whoever is number one,” he said.
All in all, reaching the summit of Test rankings, though, is an achievement, is also something which the Indian cricket team must not create a hullabaloo about. The BCCI must understand the significance of having more Tests in their itinerary and not only look at ways of multiplying profits. Let’s play the game for the love of it for once!