This week, we were reminded that the world doesn’t stay still for very long.
For example, despite decades of global reverence towards Russia in an effort to keep them appeased, Turkey chose to blow one of their fighter jets out of the sky.
Who knows what events that might trigger, but rest assured, the butterfly effect is working overtime.
This week, Cricket Australia delivered its own act of irreverence towards Test cricket by dropping a proverbial bomb on unsuspecting conservative cricket fans.
In their strongest indication yet that Test cricket as we know it is over, CA director Mark Taylor publicly discussed how this format of the game may, with their backing, morph in the future.
Forget the pink ball. This is already yesterday’s news.
No. Cricket Australia want to uproot all that is sacred and dump a folly of seedy disco’s and possibly a brothel where a proud institution once stood.
Well, that’s the viewpoint of some of the sport’s conservatives.
Cricket Australia’s proposal centers around shortening the game to four days, while extending the hours of play to allow for one hundred overs to be bowled in a day. That gives us 400 overs a match, versus the current 450.
The games will nominally run from Thursday through Sunday, following the successful golfing tournament format. Thursday and Friday caters for the corporates, with the weekends focused on families and the average punter.
With this change comes a review of ticket prices and the assumption that they will drop.
It also likely increases bidding during the next round of television rights, with four day games that culminate on a Sunday easier to manage than five day games finishing on a weekday.
Finally, all Test matches are to be played for points. This will crescendo into a Test match championship every four years.
It somewhat mirrors the way First Class cricket is played. Four day matches. A points table. A final. Someone will be crowned World Champion.
Most interesting is that currently, every domestic four day game brings a result of some kind or another. Depending on the points system, it forces faster play and more daring declarations.
All in all, there’s a lot of change coming.
The stark reality is that the game has never stood still. Yes, One Day and T20 cricket changed the format, but Test match cricket has also been on its own journey of discovery and enlightenment.
Matches used to be timeless.
Pitches used to be uncovered.
The LBW law has changed.
Running a single off a no ball did not add to the score.
Penalty runs for hitting a helmet were never a thing.
The 6 match Test series existed.
Playing under lights to extend the hours of play was unheard of.
Changes in bat design.
Now the pink ball.
You get the point.
Test cricket is a fluid beast, meandering like the Ganges and ever shifting like the borders of Europe.
As MC Hammer once probably didn’t quite say, “you can’t stop this“.
The most ridiculous argument against change is that we will need to keep different statistics.
The game of Test cricket is loaded with variables.
What was the weather like? What brand of ball was used? How many overs did the strike bowler deliver? At what position did the best batsman come in? How was the pitch? How far out were the boundaries?
I could go on.
Despite all of this, we still say Bradman’s batting average is the best way to benchmark a batsman’s worth or that the greatest of bowlers average under 25. Yet we do not segment via the examples of variability highlighted above.
It is all just wrapped up in the comfortable blanket of “Test match statistics”.
The one potential drawback is the impact of weather, but it is not as big as it may appear on the surface.
Essentially, any time lost in either a 4 or 5 day game has almost the exact same chance of recovery.
To illustrate, a washout on Day 2 of a 5 Day Test match currently gives you three days in which to recover time.
A washout on Day 1 of a four day game also gives you three days in which to recover time.
Cricket Australia intend to take a proposal to the ICC for discussion, debate and ratification.
There’s no holding back this tide. It’s like trying to stop tectonic plate movements with a bag of marshmallows.
It just won’t work.
Four day Test cricket is coming.
Get yourself ready.