What Sachin Tendulkar’s radical suggestions of home and away Tests could mean for cricket

Sachin Tendulkar has once again given some great suggestions to improve cricket. Just like previous occasions, all his proposals dare the administrator to be bold and think outside the box.

Rajesh Tiwary December 05, 2016 11:15:30 IST
What Sachin Tendulkar’s radical suggestions of home and away Tests could mean for cricket

Cricket is sometimes compared to chess for its mind games. Test cricket especially requires as much mental ability as physical prowess. Intimidation, strategy, and concentration are as important as stamina and strength. Often a professional cricketer spends more time thinking about the game than actually playing it. It is no surprise then that when the body decides it has had enough, the mind still continues to think. A cricketer may leave the game but the game doesn’t leave him.

Commentary is an easy way to stay connected with the game, but those who are truly obsessed often need a bigger rush. Saurav Ganguly has found his calling with cricket administration, Anil Kumble had done the same before, and now seems to be enjoying his stint as a coach. Rahul Dravid is doing his bit at the grassroots level by mentoring the Under 19 and the A teams. He is also keen on making cricket better at the school level, something he talked at length about in his fascinating Pataudi lecture last year.

What Sachin Tendulkars radical suggestions of home and away Tests could mean for cricket

File photo of Sachin Tendulkar. AFP

Sachin Tendulkar meanwhile is taking a much-deserved break from any direct association with the game after spending a rigorous 24 years playing at the highest level. His cricketing mind though continues to run on autopilot and he can’t stop thinking and worrying about the state of the game. It’s obvious that every time he speaks, the world takes notice.

Unlike his own game, which was based mostly on playing shots out of coaching manual, he doesn’t hold back on going complete greenfield when it comes to proposing changes to the game, and as he had shown with his stance on DRS, he isn’t afraid of going against the popular opinion.

During the 2015 World Cup, when there were talks of reducing the number of teams from 14 to 10, Tendulkar, an ICC ambassador for the tournament, pressed ICC to go the other extreme and make it a 25-team event instead. Another suggestion that ICC has taken notice of, but hasn’t taken a call on yet, is his idea of playing the 50 over format across four innings of 25 overs each to reduce the impact of toss on the outcome of the game.

At the recent Hindustan Times summit, Sachin again gave some great suggestions to improve the game. Just like previous occasions, all his proposals dare the administrator to be bold and think outside the box.

Sachin’s suggestion of playing back-to-back Test series split into home and away legs will surely humor the English press that is crying foul over pitches that they believe are far too much in favour of the home team. This isn’t a concept that is new in professional sport. The UEFA Champions League knockouts are played across two legs, allowing each team to play one game at home. Doing the same in Test cricket seems like the only way to put an end to the never ending rants over home advantage.

Playing a series in different conditions on different pitches will be a true test of a batsman’s technique. It will also allow different bowlers to come into their own in conditions that favour their skill. When Ravichandran Ashwin and James Anderson both have an equal opportunity to make an impact on the outcome of the series, it will raise viewers interest to a different level. It will throw up more batsman vs bowler rivalries during the same series, something Tendulkar feels is essential for the health of the game. It will also prevent fans from losing interest midway in a one-sided Test series.

Those who need a reason to complain may still say that the team playing at home first may have an advantage of getting ahead early in the series. The flip side of that could be that the team that is touring first may get a better chance of acclimatising to alien conditions than the team touring second and getting acclimatised midway through the series. At least there will be some new complains, which is an added win.

Sachin’s truly radical suggestion during the discussion came while he was talking about the state of domestic cricket in India. He wants domestic games to be played on two pitches in each innings. First innings on a green pitch with a Kookaburra ball and the second on a turning pitch with an SG ball. This will ensure that a batsman never gets to bat on a flat track and has his technique is tested at all times.

While the suggestions seem well intentioned and worthy of a try, it has practical difficulties in implementations and desired outcome. The first difficulty would be to protect the second pitch from too much wear and tear when the first pitch is used. You will have to stop batsmen, fielders from running on it just like you do for the playing strip. While different pitches may level the playing field for all bowlers, you still can’t control the weather conditions that will have an impact throughout.

The “turning pitch” itself is hard to define. Will it have cracks and footmarks right from the start? There is a difference between a pitch that turns on Day one and a wearing pitch that has been played on for five days. Playing on two different pitches will never test a batsman on a true fifth day pitch.

Letting batsman play on friendly conditions for some duration of the match isn’t such a bad thing. Playing a long inning to score a double or triple century in friendly conditions is also an important skill that young players need to acquire. We don’t want to flip the game too far in favour of bowlers while trying to create a level playing field.

From the days of timeless Tests and underarm bowling, modern cricket may almost seem unrecognisable from its original form in its rules, equipment and methods. Some changes have made the game more interesting, while some, like the super sub rule, had to be quickly rolled back. For all the innovations, though, cricket is the real winner at the end of the day.

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