500 Not Out - Cricket Then and Now

- Gaurav Saini   23-09-2016

          


As India will take on to New Zealand on 22nd September,  it will be the 500th test match that India plays and hence a landmark. After hosting two IPL matches, earlier this year Kanpur’s Green park stadium is set to host India vs New Zealand 2016, the first test match. People have booked themselves to watch the historic match which would surely be bit extra ordinary from the rest of the test matches which India has played till date. Not only the cricketers but it would be an overwhelming moment for the cricket lovers also. The young brigade under the captaincy of Virat Kohli is peaking to play the match along with series.

Cricket was introduced to India by European merchant sailors in the 18th century and the first cricket club in India was established in Calcutta in 1792, India’s national cricket team did not play its first test match until 25th June,1932 at Lord’s, becoming the sixth team to be granted Test cricket status. In these 84 years the shape of cricket has totally changed. Albeit in other formats of cricket apart from test there has been a stupendous change but test matches continues with wee changes. But it is the time to celebrate a country’s gradual growth in the longest format of cricket matches. India's first ever Test victory came against England at Madras in 1952 and their first series victory was against Pakistan later the same year.

 C.K Naydu was India’s first ever test match captain and from then many Indian players who are everyone’s favorite got the chance to become the test captain. To name a few, Sunil Gavaskar, Bishan Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev, Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar,  Ravi Shastri, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the present captain Virat Kohli. There was a time when Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Sourav Ganguly were the gold generation for India.

M.S Dhoni was the first of a new era of players to break through from smaller, less traditional cricket centres and for a period India was the world’s best team. In these 84 years Indian test team has made some marvelous records and enjoys the milestones. In 2004, explosive batsman Virender Sehwag smashed the first test triple century by an Indian at a rate that left people startled – his innings of 309 runs came off a mere 375 deliveries. Let us look at some of the major innovations which has taken place in test matches in the span of 138 years.

Overarm Bowling

Underarm was the norm until 1864, when the MCC allowed overarm bowling. It was widely used by the time of the first Test in 1877, but some players still bowled underarm or roundarm. Underam bowling was banned in all crickets after Trevor Chappell's infamous delivery in an ODI against NZ in 1981. Modern rules prohibit bowling arms bent more than 15 degrees.

Covered Pitches

Now the officials can call off the match if the pitch is uncovered during rain or in a precarious condition .  Even after the day’s play the pitch curator covered the pitch and maintains it.

 

Timeless Tests

There was a time when test matches used to last for six days, four days and even three days. Surprisingly, there used to be even timeless tests matches. But it ended after South Africa and England played out a 10 day draw in 1939. The South African board wanted to play an 11th day but the tourists had a ship to catch. But today a test match can last for five days. The six-ball over has been the standard since 1979-80. Until then overs varied between four, five, six and eight deliveries. Australia used eight-ball overs between 1936 and 1979.

Helmets

 To wear the helmet is obligatory for all batsman’s now and helmets have been redesigned endless times, most recently following Phillip Hughe’s death. Many years before Tony Greig and Dennis Amiss used modified motorcycle helmets.

Third Umpire

Earlier there was no third umpire, the first umpire used to take all the decisions. But from 1992 third umpires were introduced and on field umpire can now refer the decision to the third umpire in case of run out or for that matter the third umpire can also check whether a ball has hit the ground before being caught.

Day Night Tests

To boost the popularity of cricket and capitalize on prime time tv ad revenues, Cricket Australia led the way in introducing the first day-night test match in Adelaide in 2015 in which Australia defeated New Zealand by three wickets.

Notwithstanding this today very often we hear people to say “Kya yaar ab to test match me bhi 50-50 ki tara run bante hain”( What’s this manner, today runs are scored in test matches as that of 50 overs match). The rules of cricket provide that a bat cannot be wider than 4.25 inches and no longer than 38 inches. However, a report by Imperial College London, commissioned by the MCC, found that the length and thickness of bats had increased over time. These results in giving significant advantage to batsman and these changes to bats have been seen as one of  the reason for bigger and higher records. For instance fastest ODI century (31 balls by AB Devilliers) and the highest score in ODI cricket (264 off 173 balls by Rohit Sharma)

So 500 is just a number, India still has to cross a challenging ladder to regain its place as the leader or number one country in test cricket. Currently it is number two in test rankings. Undoubtedly modern test cricket is engrossing  and shows a news extermination with  physical and mental preparation in the minds of players. Today players are more skilful, audacious and courageous to face any situation in the matches. But on a sad side, India has yet to win a series in South Africa. It has only ever won a single series in Pakistan. It has not won a series in England since 2007. It has lost more tests in New Zealand and Sri Lanka than it has won. The only place where it can be said to win abroad reliably is the West Indies which is currently at its lowest tide and has not beaten India since 2002.