Is Test Match Cricket Getting Easier?
The 21st century has seen such sights in its brief lifetime that in the 20th century, spectators could only dream of. In just eight years, cricket fans have witnessed the highest test innings score being broken twice, the second by Brian Lara, the first man to reach 400 in a test.
Fans have also seen both Lara and Tendulkar overhaul Allan Borders previously untouchable record of 11,174 Test runs. Meanwhile, Mohammed Yousuf has broken Vivian Richards record of most runs in a test calendar year.
So what is the reason for this? Are countries across the world producing once in a lifetime batsman? Is the standard of bowling across the globe in a period of decline? Or are pitches being tailor maid to suit batsman?
In my opinion, it is a slight combination of all three.
There is no doubt that batsman such as Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar deserve to be part of the games rich history, however, whether the pair would have been capable of such success should they have played the game 20 years previously is another thing.
Of the players playing test match cricket 20 years previously only Allan Border, Viv Richards, and Javed Miandad had an average over 50. Compare this to current day, where Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Matthew Hayden, Jaques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Kumar Sangakarra, and Mahela Jayawardane all average above the figure.
One key explanation for this is the increase in quality of pitches. The main reason for this is revenue. Larger national boards such as the ECB seem desperate to get the full revenue possible from each test match.
Therefore, the idea a game that lasts five days is only possible with flat wickets, better for batting.
Another reason why batsman have found run scoring easier in the 21st century is the decreasing quality of fast bowlers. As recent as the 1990's; names such as Akram, Younis, Walsh, Ambrose, Donald, and McGrath meant that there was no such thing as an "easy" test match.
However, in modern day cricket, the only current fast bowlers to average under 25 are Dale Steyn and Stuart Clark. Whereas all bowlers mentioned belonging to the previous decade averaged under the figure.
So why is there such a decline in fast bowlers? Surely, if such high quality bowlers can be produced in the 90s, we should be able to have the same standards as the modern game?
One major reason for the steady decline in fast bowling is the increased workload of the international game. The current international schedule means that breaks are few and far between for bowlers. The game is competed 12 months a year. With this work load, bowlers are more likely to under perform and get injured.
In addition to this, the flatter wickets being produced means that spin bowling has become a more favorable way of taking wickets. Considering this, it is no surprise that Shane Warne and Murali are the two highest wicket tackers of the 21st century.
When considering all mentioned, the batsman friendly nature test cricket in is a sorry sight for cricket purists across the globe.
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