India captain Virat Kohli — arguably the most influential voice in contemporary cricket — has given a thumbs-down to the ICC’s reported plan to make four-day Tests mandatory as part of the World Test Championship from 2023.“Look, I am not a fan,” the India captain told reporters in Guwahati on the eve of the first T20 international against Sri Lanka.
“I think the intent will not be right then because then you will speak of three-day Tests, I mean where do you end? Then you will speak of Test cricket disappearing. I don’t endorse that at all,” he added.Kohli has been a strong backer of the purest format of the game and he is not receptive to such a major tweak.
“I don’t think that’s fair to the purest format of the game. How cricket started initially, and five-day Test matches was the highest of Tests you can have at the international level. According to me, it shouldn’t be altered.”
Earlier, Australia Test captain Tim Paine, too, had rubbished the idea, while his team-mates, Travis Head and Nathan Lyon, supported him.
But Kohli’s disapproval assumes a greater significance given his popularity and clout.On the face of it, the ICC wants to make four-day Tests mandatory from 2023 as a measure to create windows for its own events. The game’s global body has planned eight flagship events during the next eight-year rights cycle, starting 2023.
Plans are afoot to have formal discussion on four-day Tests during the ICC cricket committee meeting in May. And although the BCCI is yet to take a stand on this, it is very likely that the Sourav Ganguly-helmed Indian board will have a word with Kohli and the Indian team once it receives a formal proposal from the ICC. The skipper, however, has already rejected it.In fact, Kohli feels innovations in the long-form should end at pink-ball Tests.
“Day-night cricket is the most that needs to be changed about Test cricket, according to me. I mean then you are purely going to be talking about getting the numbers in and entertainment. Day-night is another step towards commercialising Test cricket and creating excitement around it, but it can’t be tinkered with too much.”
India played their first-ever day-night Test, against Bangladesh, at Eden Gardens in November last year. And they might play a day-night Test in Australia during their tour Down Under later this year.
As for four-day Tests, back in 2015, when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves had pushed for the truncated version as a countermeasure to dwindling global interest in the format, the BCCI wasn’t warm to the idea, as it felt it could work to the disadvantage of the spinners.
In Indian conditions, spinners get the biggest purchase from the pitch on the fourth and fifth day.In 2017, the ICC approved four-day Tests and subsequently South Africa hosted one against Zimbabwe, while England played a four-day Test against Ireland last July. In fact, over the past couple of years, over 60 per cent of Test matches have finished in inside four days.
At the same time, three out of five Tests during the last Ashes series in England went to the fifth day. The most memorable Test that India had played in the last two decades produced a result deep into the final session on Day Five — against Australia at Eden Gardens in 2001.Cricket Australia (CA) has spoken about giving the idea of four-day Tests a serious consideration. “It is something that we have got to seriously consider. It is something that can’t be driven by emotion, but it needs to be driven by fact. We need to look at what’s the average length of Test matches over the past five-ten years in terms of time and overs,” CA chief executive Kevin Roberts told SEN Radio last week.
The ECB has given the idea a “cautious” backing, with an eye to “complex scheduling” and “player workloads”. Then again, the ECB would also consider the “emotive” aspect of it. “We understand it’s an emotive topic for players, fans and others who have concerns about challenging the heritage of Test cricket,” an ECB spokesperson was quoted as saying.
BCCI to meet CA, CSA
It is learnt that the issue might come up for discussion, when the BCCI top-brass meets CA chairman Earl Eddings and his delegation on the sidelines of Australia’s three-match ODI series in India commencing January 14. A Cricket South Africa (CSA) delegation headed by its president Chris Nenzani, too, is scheduled to arrive and while the proposed four-nation Super Series is expected to be the top item on the agenda, in the wake of the recent developments, four-day Tests could be part of the discussion as well. Without the BCCI’s approval, the plan runs the risk of falling flat.Meanwhile, Kohli also spoke about the ECB’s ‘The Hundred’, saying he wouldn’t be interested. “I was asked about the 100-ball (in England), I said I am not going to try myself in another format because there’s already so much going on.” The franchise-based 100-ball tournament is set to commence in July.
Live on Star Sports network: Ind vs SL; 7 pm
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines