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Saving The Test

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Saving The Test

4.99 9.99
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Test cricket remains the most rich, complex and beguiling sport of all but it is under pressure like never before, this book charts a course for survival.

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Test cricket remains the most rich, complex and beguiling sport of all but it is under pressure like never before, this book charts a course for survival.

By Mike Jakeman

As it approaches its 140th birthday, Test cricket remains the most rich, complex and beguiling sport of all. However, it is under pressure like never before. Eclipsed by the heady glamour of Twenty20, compromised by poor administration and struggling to escape a decade of corruption scandals, five-day cricket faces an uncertain future. In this important book Mike Jakeman lays bare the problems facing Test match cricket and, based on interviews with players, administrators, umpires, groundsmen and police, charts a course for the survival of the sport in an age when five days is longer than ever

'Needless to add, this book deserves, above all, to be read by those we entrust with running our precious game. A good look in the mirror never hurt anyone' - ESPNcricinfo.com

Author Bio

Mike Jakeman is a writer and editor with the Economist Group, where he spends his time thinking about Asia. He plays Sunday cricket, where he bowls like Paul Collingwood and bats like Chris Martin. This is his first book.

Extract

The idea for this book came to me at the end of the summer of 2011. England had just beaten India 4-0 in the year’s headline series and in doing so, sent themselves back to the top of the world rankings for the first time since 1980. Cricket felt good.

It was easy to find reasons to be cheerful about Test cricket. England’s success and the batting legends in that Indian side—Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag—meant that the summer’s cricket felt like an event again. For the first time since 2005 and that glorious, all-of-the-stars-are-aligning Ashes win over Australia, fans were queueing from the early hours of the morning for tickets. England had a young team, one with personality. Graeme Swann was familiar to the man on the street. Stuart Broad was invited on talk shows. And they were playing with confidence. They were playing excellent cricket. For those of us who had grown up in the 1990s, Test cricket in England was a masochistic joy. Every summer a new set of intimidating foreign bowlers made fools of our callow batsmen. Ambrose and Walsh; Donald and Pollock; McGrath and Warne; Murali on his own. Even Allott and Nash rolled us over. But no more. England were winners. Cricket was a winner. It had again transcended its minority appeal to define the sporting summer.

And yet.

And yet, how good was the cricket itself that summer? Forget the England fans queuing round the corner, with their pints, their trumpets and their popping corks. How good was it for the neutral? Was it tough? Was it tiring? Was it competitive? Did it show a sport that was thriving?

I had my doubts.

England, in their own backyard, on their own pitches and with their own fans, were excellent. As they should be. But India were abject. England did not just win four Tests. They won two games by an innings and another by 300 runs. They duffed up India and then they stripped away their pride. It was merciless and humiliating.

India should not have been that bad. Pundits were not without reason when they made them slight favourites. Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Virender Sehwag had played more than 550 Tests. All 11 Englishmen had played 502. But India were never going to win. We didn’t know it at Lord’s, on the first day, when England struggled. But then Zaheer, India’s best bowler by the length of the Long Room, broke down. He and the others were exhausted from non-stop Twenty20 and the euphoria of winning the World Cup. Some had not played a Test in nine months; others were nursing unhealed injuries. The team had no time to acclimatise. One of Zaheer’s replacements forgot to apply for a visa. They had no incentive to learn how to play a ball that moved in the air. The circumstances of cricket—everything other than what happens on the pitch—had defeated India. They were sunk. So was any hope of a competitive series.

Since that series, which was a triumph for England, but a disaster for cricket, Test matches have wandered further and further towards irrelevance. Test cricket has suffered from problems familiar to other sports, but mostly it has struggled through those of its own making.