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Cricket Test 2000

But what goes unnoticed is that the few Test matches that are played nowadays have become more attractive to watch. Skills which have been developed specifically for one-day cricket are now feeding back into the longer version, leading to closer contests without large periods of inactivity.

Quick calling and speedy running between the wickets, for instance, has meant that the era of defensive shots in a Test match have thankfully disappeared.

Players now know that they can rotate the strike just by placing the ball and running hard to the other end. Fielders with better ball-handling and throwing abilities realise that if the batsman makes any error they have a very good chance of getting a wicket. Spectators love these constant close contests, complete with winners and losers to cheer.

This means more people are likely to take three days off work at least the hard-core fans and go watch a Test match. Which increases their popularity with TV bosses and sponsors, which means they start pestering the boards for more matches... And suddenly youve got a state of affairs where both the purists and Rupert Murdoch are happy.

There could soon be a situation where cricket is played in different formats. Some variations based on the number of players, as in volleyball, basketball and football; others in terms of the duration of the event, like car races.

Already, Australian TV in conjunction with the Aussie cricket board has begun ushering in this revolution. An eight-a-side tournament another one-day format where each side bats for 25 overs twice has already been played in Malaysia. Another is being tried out in Australian first class cricket and should make its international debut next year. Other Aussie innovations like the annual triangular one-day series has become de rigeur in all countries except England. Even Zimbabwe hosted their first quadrangular series last month.

All this is good for a game that never went to all corners of the empire. More people may not be playing it but at least more expatriates are able to watch their stars play.

For the television company it doesnt really matter where they put their cameras, and for players and officials, its a new country to visit.

One has a sneaking suspicion the decision to play the Indo-Pakistan series in Canada was made in the long room at Mohali or wherever, after one of the board members remarked: I am tired of shopping in Sharjah every year.

For the players, anything goes, as long as they are playing international cricket, getting paid decent match fees and winning more prize money. Getting wickets and making runs is what matters, regardless of the format. And in a crowded, tense international season if there are a couple of six-a-side or eight-a-side tournaments in the Seychelles where the pressure cooker is turned off, all the better.

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First Published: Fri, October 18 1996. 00:00 IST