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Tests or ODIs?

Jayasuriya’s retirement from Test matches triggers the old debate yet again.



Sanath Jayasuriya and the test cricket vs ODI debateApril 2, 2006: It was another headline, not a big one, that cricket lovers read, accepted and moved on. Yes, I'm talking about that Sri Lankan phenom called Sanath Jayasuriya announcing his retirement from cricket. That doesn't mean we won't see him in our TV screens.And not just when they play 'greatest moments' when TV channels run out of cricket software. He will continue to play one-dayers while stepping down from the Test side in favour of blokes like Upul Chandana. In fact, Sri Lanka's highest run-getter plans to carry on till the next World Cup.

Jayasuriya was an intimidating batsman but let us analyse that terse 'hanging his boots' announcement for a different purpose. His stats and exploits are just a click away, so let’s not reinvent the wheel. What the announcement clearly shows is how Test cricket has fallen in the eyes of cricketers themselves. It is another matter that they would continue to proclaim in press interviews that Test cricket is real cricket and similar-sounding profanities.

Fact is that, gone are the days when cricketers were given rest from one-day cricket to preserve them for Test cricket and posterity. Allan Donald was one such cricketer whom coach Bob Woolmer wanted to pereserve with cotton wool. And it worked. 

India tried something similar with Javagal Srinath during the Sourav-Wright regime. He was 'rested' from one-dayers and asked to don whites during Test matches. The logic was sound since he could never be counted on for his batting. And he can never bowl more than 10 overs in any case. But Srinath was so offended that he almost refused to play the Tests. Reason being that, if he was not selected for one-dayers, he would naturally be not in contention for the World Cup. Greg Chappell may be pardoned now if he tries to give rest for Sachin Tendulkar from the dull affairs called Test matches so that he could play one more World Cup.

Is there anything wrong with the slow death of Test cricket if that is what destiny and specators want? No objections. After all, in none of the Test playing countries barring India do you get full stadiums for Test matches if you discount Sundays. And, the list includes supposed to be cricket-mad subcontinent countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But I remember the comments of a certain veteran cricket correspondent who would go back to do desk duties once the Test series was over. I asked him once why he wasn't interested in the one-dayers. 'Can you remember any of the one-dayers you see?" he shot back. "Whereas you can never forget a well-fought Test match." Point well made.

It is perhaps a coincidence that ICC has announced a 20-20 World Cup. Details are awaited but that may have some long-term impact. Can there be a similar lack of enthusiasm for 50-over matches, say 50 years hence, in favour of the even shorter, even more exciting variety?

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