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Dravid believes Test matches are the “life source” of cricket
Legendary India batsman Rahul Dravid has always been a keen advocate of saving Test cricket, and once again, he has made a desperate plea for more Test matches to be played as he believes it provides players with a solid foundation, which helps them prosper in ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals.
Dravid noted that day-night Tests are a good way to boost attendance, while better pay and a well-balanced and structured schedule are also key in helping the classic format make a roaring comeback.
Dravid added that lower-ranked nations like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe should also consider involving themselves in some of the higher-ranked countries’ first-class tournaments, for example Zimbabwe playing in England’s county league.
“Test cricket, an older, larger entity is the trunk of a tree and the shorter game – be it T20 or ODIs – is its branches, its offshoots,” he said. “Now to be fair, it is the branches that carry the fruit, earn the benefits of the larger garden in which they stand and so catch the eye. The trunk, though, is the old, massive, larger thing which took a very long time to reach height and bulk. But it is actually a life source: chip away at the trunk or cut it down and the branches will fall off, the fruit will dry up.”
With cricket pundits and former players constantly keeping a close eye on Test matches, Dravid believes the criticisms younger players receive will help them get better, while also allowing them to understand the hardships of becoming a Test legend.
“The fundamental core of every cricketer’s game is enriched by playing four- and five-day cricket,” he said. “By using those well-trained powers of adaptability, discipline, resilience and focus as a T20 cricketer, you will have double the advantage than the player possessed only of talent and timing.
“The skill of learning how to think clearly under pressure is required in T20, but it is built through having to endure pressure for a session, two sessions, an entire day, a series of spells.”
Despite a lot of the current Test superstars having developed their technique at the first-class level, Dravid noted that the future generation may not even need first-class cricket as they would use the increasing number of domestic Twenty20 tournaments around the world to hone their skills.
“We are, I believe, maybe one generation away from reaching the point where our entire youth structures could cater only to T20 without any emphasis on the longer form of the game,” he said. “By not giving young players a chance to explore their versatility, endurance or even improvisational skills, we will be selling ourselves and our sport well short.
“If that means reworking how first-class and Test players can be out on more lucrative contracts, let’s get the accountants on this. If it means playing day-night cricket, we must give it a try, keep an open mind. The game’s traditions aren’t under threat if we play Test cricket under lights. I know there have been concerns about the durability of the pink ball, but I have had some experience of it having played for the MCC, and it seemed to hold up okay.”
Dravid once again reiterated that a well-balanced and structured schedule was key to “balancing and creating context for all the three formats”.
“We can start by sorting out the scheduling around Test cricket, to ensure that teams can complete their home-and-away cycles against each other over a four-year period,” he said. “This will mean balancing and creating context for all the three formats.
“If we can answer that question – what’s this for? – with something other than the words ‘television rights’ we will have done well.”
With many of the top nations refusing to play against lower-ranked opposition, Dravid stated that it was essential for teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to keep themselves in good shape by having a competitive first-class tournament.
“Bangladesh is a good example of a country with a great passion for the game and they don’t lack in talent,” he said. “But they are still struggling to find their feet, literally and figuratively, in Test cricket because of the lack of a strong first-class structure. Test cricket is not the place to start trying to learn new skills.”
The former batsman added that top-ranked nations should help out struggling countries, just like how Pakistan are doing so for Afghanistan.
“India for Bangladesh, South Africa for Zimbabwe, England for West Indies, Australia for New Zealand,” Dravid said. “We are a very small community and we can’t afford to lose the members of our family”.