Murali Vijay. Pic/AFP
The recent series between India and Australia showcased many of the good things about Test cricket and a few of the unsightly. It was the most entertaining series I've watched since the thrilling and dynamic Ashes battle of 2005.
First the good things; the attributes administrators ought to highlight in promoting Test cricket.
The most important ingredient was the competitiveness of the two teams. Test cricket needs more teams who can compete both at home and away. The administrators need to encourage improvement in the standard of the lowly ranked Test teams before they think about expanding the competition.
Some of the pitches came in for criticism but they provided exhilarating contests where the fan or viewer felt something was about to happen every ball. The fourth Test pitch was a beauty, where everyone had a chance to display their talent.
The moral? Provide pitches that give bowlers some assistance and there's every chance the Test will live up to it's name.
Encouragement for spinnersThe surfaces also highlighted the excitement on display when slow bowlers are encouraged. Cricket needs to make a concerted effort to improve the lot of spin bowlers; the game can't do without top-class tweakers. An educational program aimed at young spinners and their captains would be a start.
Speaking of captains, there was some excellent leadership in the series. However, the stand-in Ajinkya Rahane was outstanding in the deciding Test. His decisive use of left-arm chinaman debutant Kuldeep Yadav in the first innings and the brave way he sought second innings wickets in a tight contest were standout examples of how a captain can influence a game.
Rahane then placed the trophy firmly in India's hands when he was pro-active in the run chase and ended Patrick Cummins fiery attempt to provoke a collapse. Good, imaginative captaincy is crucial to the success of Test cricket.
The prodigious run scoring by Steve Smith and Cheteshwar Pujara reflected an old-fashioned approach to batting. Their concentration was relentless and the shot-making displayed a desire to eradicate error; they mostly hit the ball along the ground. It was reminiscent of a time when Test cricket was the only game in town.
DRS not so appealingNow for the not so appealing aspects of the series.
The DRS doesn't achieve what it was introduced to do. The DRS should simply overturn howlers and within a margin-for-error, ensure decisions are correct. It shouldn't be constantly employed to review fifty/fifty decisions and tactically induced punts. It should also be under the sole control of the umpires. The adjudication process shouldn't turn a captain into a 'Money or The Box' contestant, with onlookers shouting advice from the sidelines.
The DRS should not include reviews to determine if a fielder has caught the ball. Murali Vijay caught Josh Hazlewood in Dharamsala; any fair-minded slip fielder will confirm it was a legitimate catch.
A fielder doesn't catch the ball with his fingers pointing straight towards the ground. He only does that when he's intercepting a ball that has bounced in front of him. Murali Vijay had his fingers curled under the ball, it's just that the foreshortening effect of the cameras made it appear otherwise on one replay. Not only does reviewing these decisions often bring about the wrong conclusion - on-field umpire Ian Gould's soft signal was out - it also implies the fielder is a cheat. The evidence is flawed and should be thrown out of court.
The incessant on-field chatter has to be drastically reduced. It should drive batsmen mad but if it doesn't, it's the equivalent of a fingernail on a chalkboard for the television viewer.
Don't fool usWe don't need to hear another "nice SOK" anymore than the bowler does. These inane comments don't convey anything useful to teammates or viewers and they are NOT PART OF THE GAME, as we are constantly assured they are by participants.
Those annoyances apart, it was a fabulous series showing Test cricket in a wonderful light. It emphasised why this version of the game needs to be nurtured, albeit with some tweaking.
A fielder doesn't catch the ball with his fingers pointing straight towards the ground. He only does that when he's intercepting a ball that has bounced in front of him. Murali Vijay had his fingers curled under the ball, it's just that the foreshortening effect of the cameras made it appear otherwise on one replay