Test cricket is in a league of its own

2011-06-01 00:00

THE Chennai Super Kings victory over the Royal Challengers Bangalore at Chennai on Saturday brought to an end seven weeks of incessant IPL action.

I, for one, am relieved. It was a tournament that appeared to go on forever with a total of 74 matches, many of them easily forgettable. With a surfeit of fixtures, the weaker teams of the IPL were exposed time and again, widening the gap between the top and bottom four. As a result many of the contests were nothing more than spectacular non-events.

With so much action it was hard to keep track of who was playing whom. Even seasoned commentator Ravi Shastri lost his way when interviewing one of the captains at the toss as he asked: “Your last game was a good tight game against  … whom did you beat?’

Just how well season four of the IPL fared remains to be seen.

With TV audiences down and empty stands during the play- offs there is evidence that perhaps Indian spectators have a saturation point after all. Yet the IPL remains cricket’s cash cow, generously rewarding over 200 overseas and local Indian players. It’s the tournament of choice for cricketers wanting to rake in the dollars with some players even opting for cash ahead of playing for their country.

After all the hype and hysteria of the IPL, the sound of leather on willow and muted applause as I switched over to coverage of the first Test match between England and Sri Lanka was music to my ears. With too many runs on the board, time lost for bad weather and a flattening pitch, a dull draw seem- ed inevitable. It was turning out to be the sort of match that has critics of the five-day game poised to pen Test cricket’s obituary. Even Andrew Strauss admitted on the morning of the fifth day that he felt it had been one of the drabbest Test matches he’d played — but it was not to be. With England leading by 96 runs, Strauss declared, leaving Sri Lanka to fend off just 50 overs. It took only 24,4 overs for England to wrap up Sri Lanka for a paltry 82 runs. Strauss’s men bowled and fielded superbly to win by an innings and 14 runs. All that is great about Test cricket was on display in this surprising English victory. Sri Lanka offered chances and England, with their tails up, managed to squeeze victory out of nowhere. At stumps the Sri Lankans looked understandably shell-shocked. “I can’t believe we got out in 25 overs with such a good batting line-up,” admitted captain Tillakaratne Dilshan in a post-match interview.

This intriguing contest bodes well for the remaining two Test encounters of the summer and serves as another reminder that Test-match cricket is alive and well, and in a league of its own.

Time will tell if the same can be said of the protracted seven-week IPL hit and giggle.

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