Test Cricket Under Threat

Posted on January 7, 2011 by

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No. This is not another piece about crowds, kids’ attention-spans, Twenty20 etc etc etc. Test cricket’s existence has been precarious since 1877 and it’s still with us, so it’ll survive.

This threat to Test cricket is related to all the familiar villains (and there’s plenty more where those mentioned above came from), but it’s not a villain often spoken about – why are youngish Test cricketers just, well, not very good?

Here’s the nation-by-nation rundown of the newer generation based on those who have played in the last two years

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Australia

We need not be detained long by the credentials of Peter George, Phillip Hughes or Xavier Doherty, but even the one real find for Aus in the last two years has been around for a while – step forward and find a camera, Shane Watson. Ryan Harris is a decent bowler, but he’s old and brittle. And can we call Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle very good Test players? Not really, though MJ may have been, once.

Last very good Test player produced – Michael Clarke (debut 2004)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Usman Khawaja – but, “No pressure son!”

Bangladesh

Playing in what is still a losing side is hard work for men trying to establish themselves at the forefront of playing standards in the world game, but Shakib Al Hassan has done so, a Bangla version of Dan Vettori.

Last very good Test player produced – Shakib Al Hasan (debut 2007)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Tamim Iqbal – unless he destroys his potential chasing the Twenty20 dollar (and I wouldn’t blame him for a moment if he did).

England

One of the exceptions to my hypothesis. The much maligned county system has produced a number of solid Test players in recent years with some well on the way to being very good. Count Stuart Broad and Matt Prior as getting there and Swanny and Trotty as having made it. The back-up players – Bresnan, Onions, Tremlett, Finn and Morgan – have all shown they have what it takes, so the future for England looks as rosy as I can recall. With Alastair Cook just 26 and next in line for the captaincy, even that base is covered.

Last very good Test player produced – Jonathan Trott (debut 2009)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Ajmal Shahzad – if he can get a game.

India

The logjam caused by the longevity of the all-time greats in the middle order has made it difficult for young batsmen to prove themselves, but if the answer is Suresh Raina, then I’m not sure what the question is. Many bowlers have had a go and it’s hard to see why some (like Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha) are in and out of the side and why others (like Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel and Sreesanth) cannot graft consistency on to their talent and make a case to be the heirs of Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath.

Last very good Test player produced – Gautam Gambhir (debut 2004)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Cheteshwar Pujara – but too much IPL may ruin his classical technique..

New Zealand

Like Bangladesh and Pakistan, it’s hard for young players to establish themselves in a side that doesn’t play much Test cricket and win infrequently. Old hands like Iain O’Brien, Jacob Oram and Scott Styris have moved aside though and there’s some promise among the youngsters given a chance. Tim Southee will never be the new Chris Martin though, never mind the new Shane Bond.

Last very good Test player produced – Jesse Ryder (debut 2008)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Kane Williamson – though pack in the “bowling” son.

Pakistan

Where to start? Even the deepest pure talent pool in world cricket cannot cope with the circus that is Pakistan cricket and the impact that has on the likes of Umar Akmal and Azhar Ali.

Last very good Test player produced – Mohammad Amir (debut 2009)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Mohammad Amir – for obvious reasons, hope is all one has for the young man just now.

South Africa

Some of the same problems for young players as their Indian counterparts are finding – who would drop Smith, Amla, Kallis, de Villiers, Boucher, Steyn? And such is the competition for slots that even as good a player as JP Duminy can’t get back in once a run of poor form sees him dropped. They’re almost as strong in the bowling as the batting, at least as promising as England in the seamer squad department and, with Imran Tahir soon available, likely to have a spinner to replace their slow bowler.

Last very good Test player produced – Morne Morkel (debut 2006)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Wayne Parnell – who must be better than Lopsy Tsotsobe for all his heart, but this writer will not complain about explicit nor implicit transformation-related decisions if indeed that is relevant at all.

Sri Lanka

With their long established batsmen still relatively young and so much bowling in the recent past being done by Murali and Chaminda Vaas, there are more opportunities for young bowlers than batsmen in the Lankans’ line-up. Ajantha Mendis, like Lasith Malinga, has been in and out of the Test team, but, when he gets it right, can be unplayable (until the video analysts really get to work on him).

Last very good Test player produced – Ajantha Mendis (debut 2008)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Angelo Mathews – nobody can doubt his coolness under pressure.

West Indies

The long decline of West Indies’ cricket is well documented and probably overstated, though it started from a very high peak indeed. One is never quite sure what is going on with the Board and decisions to drop Ronnie Sarwan look a bit inexplicable from the outside. Kemar Roach certainly has the ability to kick on – but so does Jerome Taylor and it’s just not happening.

Last very good Test player produced – Dwayne Bravo (debut 2004)

Best hope for “very goodness” – Darren Bravo – just don’t mention… well, you know who.

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Article by Gary Naylor