The new Formula 1 season starts in a couple of months, but enthusiasts of that ‘sport’ are already chatting endlessly about the changes to the cars, the extra speed, the extra down force and all kinds of other things that normal people don’t care about.
Bernie Ecclestone and his crew seem to tinker with Formula 1 more often than a weaver bird with a disapproving partner. Every year there seems to be some sort of change from engines, to tyres, to practice runs with this season’s new thing being about improving the aesthetics of the car.
I lost interest in keeping up with it all, so I thought about what could happen if cricket were to get ongoing ‘F1 like’ changes. Some may argue that it does already, when you consider the advent of T20 cricket, the day/night Test match, allowing Michael Clarke to commentate… It certainly isn’t a sport that stands still.
What if we really shook things up though and touched the one thing that has been rather traditional to this point – the pitch.
Cricket is unique in that the playing surfaces are very different all over the world. But there is still some consistency in that you expect, for example, spin in India and Sri Lanka, and pace & bounce in South Africa and Australia.
So how about we change that: both teams should get a choice of an end wherever they play, and that end of the pitch will be prepared however they want.
For instance: you are South Africa touring India and as per usual the home team is happy to do battle on a dry turner (as they are entitled to). But as the away team, you get to have the other end a little grassier and if possible something a little bouncier.
Sure it sounds silly now, but so did playing cricket in pajamas under lights back in the day.
The two pitch Test match would be a thing of beauty and really play to the meaning of ‘Test’ cricket. There would be something in it for everyone, meaning that home teams wouldn’t dominate Test cricket as much.
Of the 22 Test matches played in 2016 featuring traditional ‘spin strong’ teams (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) against traditional ‘seam strong’ teams (South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand), the away team won just two Tests. That was Pakistan beating England at Lords and the Oval, mostly because Pakistan have always had a history of having good seamers and spinners.
Watching Sri Lanka in South Africa offering as much threat to their opponents as a butter knife to a tank wasn’t fun for anyone. Dry up the one end from the start, though, and suddenly Herath is in the game and their batsmen wouldn’t be completely clueless every time a South African bowler came running in.
Grass up half of some of the Indian pitches and we may see James Anderson actually lead his attack rather than just sulk at fine leg all day. Sure, that is actually entertaining for some, but it gets a bit monotonous after a while.
Test cricket, in my mind, remains the greatest form of the game. But sometimes it really does get a little one sided. This idea may be a little ‘Formula 1’ for most people’s likings, but it’s worth a thought if the game finds itself in a position where they are forced to evolve and ‘stay relevant’.
If nothing else, it would make the coin toss one of the most fascinating things in the game. Just imagine the captains talking about their own prepared ends, and how they plan to use them to their advantage.
It sure would be entertaining to watch the contrasting battles, and may even lead to some interesting run outs as certain batsmen start to favor an end from the 4th ball onwards.
Let’s leave it as a thought in process for the time being…
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