In the pandemic-stricken world, outside of the big three, Test cricket ultimately loses the most because it’s the most available
Pandemic-like crises can accelerate the evolution process. Those who are somewhere among the “fittest” have to adapt and often make compromises in order to survive. Test cricket outside the big three goes through that process.
Staying in bubbles and sticking to such tight schedules, meaning your hotel-ground-hotel travel day in and day out, is no longer tenable. Of course, outside of the big three, Test cricket loses the most because it is the most available. The IPL teams get their camps, the T20 World Cup has warm-ups, Australia, India and England get extensive preparation when they play Tests, but the Test cricket world champions try to defend their number 1 position on a breeze tour.
Daniel Vettori chooses his New Zealand XI
“At the same time, we are trying to prepare as best we can. And we are excited about the challenge ahead, a very strong Indian side, playing in a country that is one of the biggest challenges in the sport.”
Williamson himself sat out the T20I series to be fit and ready for the tests, but Trent Boult and Rohit chose the T20Is instead. KL Rahul would probably have been fit and ready had he not played the T20Is and suffered a thigh injury, most likely a stress related injury. In another world, the players wouldn’t even have had to make that choice, because that T20I series wouldn’t even have been there. Instead, New Zealand would have played against the XI of a Board President’s XI in a warm-up match, in which two or three Indian fringe players would also have staked their claim. Perhaps Ajinkya Rahane would have played such a game to regain his form.
That other world has been phased out during the pandemic. In any case, Williamson is not naive enough not to know the commercial importance of the T20I matches that preceded this series.
“Very challenging schedule after a World Cup,” Williamson said when asked about the relevance of a bilateral T20I series. “Thank you to both teams who went out there and put their best foot forward and competed in a big way. It was interesting and unique, but at the same time it was special to watch people watch those matches. Players all really enjoyed those too matches.
“In these times it was a challenge to [not] have the schedules we would have liked, and it has come out with things beyond our control. We are all lucky enough to play international cricket here. Being in India and playing cricket here is one of the more special things we can do in this form.”
Test cricket will thus adapt to this time of crisis in order to survive, but beware of normalizing these schemes. For those who don’t want the bloated – they say – Test Schedules, have tasted blood and may want to repeat this even after the pandemic is behind us. If you show them you can work from home, they’ll start to wonder if it’s worth splurging on office desks when things open up.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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