Test cricket received yet another doomsday warning last week in England. Adil Rashid and Alex Hales, regulars in the traditional format till 18 months ago, had turned their back on red-ball cricket for good. A few more high-profile names, too, were feared to take the same route. It didn’t help that these reports came at a time when most international players were busy playing T20s, either for their national team or in a domestic league. The future of Test cricket seemed to be under a cloud, yet again. Those fears, though, were abruptly brought to a halt on Thursday as South Africa and Australia began the first of four Tests.
There was Vernon Philander bowling to David Warner. At the other end, Kagiso Rabada was trying his best to outdo the remarkable Steve Smith. Next to Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers was snaffling a catch at slip. Just like it did in January when Virat Kohli & Co were donning the whites against the Proteas, Test cricket has never seemed healthier and more exciting. Smith and Rabada didn’t play the T20s for their teams and had been either rested or had taken a break voluntarily to prepare for the Test series. De Villiers recovered just in time to be fighting fit for the Aussies. And over the next four weeks, will be seen some of the most engrossing individual battles in modern-day cricket being played out repeatedly. The series will also showcase the two best fast bowling attacks in the world.
Come April, though, Smith and his band of cricketing luminaries from the southern hemisphere will be in India, switching the whites for the colours of their respective franchises and adding to the glowing profile of the IPL. It’ll be further proof that despite incessant threats to its very existence, Test cricket will still hold its place in the field, till the time the biggest names in the sport aren’t turning their backs on it.