India winning Cape Town Test needs to be celebrated, but two matches are inadequate

The South Africa vs India series trophy being awarded to both the teams (Image: BCCI)

This was a picture-perfect ending, steeped in poignancy, as skipper Rohit Sharma was unbeaten at the crease when India defeated South Africa by seven wickets in the second Test on Thursday.
A win is a win. It’s just that for the die-hard fans of the old format, pure and pristine Test cricket, two matches are an insufficient diet. This was likely Rohit’s last essay in South Africa in the Test format.
Given the shabby way red-ball cricket is being treated, a two-Test series is just not enough. Just a few days ago, fans were in mourning as India had been humiliated by South Africa in the first Test. Ah, that was last year, and the win on Thursday was in the new year in Cape Town.

Celebrate, cheer, pop the cork, let the bubbly flow. India have beaten South Africa, which is a big deal. Cheer the heroes – Mohammed Siraj, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah for their glorious efforts with bat and ball.
Yet, for old-timers like me, two Tests are just not enough. We keep hearing that Test matches are “losing relevance” in comparison to the T20 internationals, plus the reduced number of ODIs. However, when one talks of cricket which is most beautiful, Test cricket does attract. It has appeal, it has charm, and it does have a dedicated but niche viewership.


But then, the way Test cricket is being treated is sad. Ideally, India versus South Africa should have been a minimum of three Tests. That is the least needed to ensure there was sufficient competition between two teams which are highly combative on a given day. There will be a -high-pitched debate over the lousy surface in Cape Town, where the uneven bounce on Day 1 was pathetic. The curator needs to be sacked or sent to a refresher school to learn how a Test track must be prepared.

Also Read: Rohit Sharma Spot on About Doctored Pitches and Double Standards

Back to the series, which was too short and sweet. A 1-1 draw does look face-saving for Team India, with Rohit and Rahul Dravid, the coach, emerging unscathed. Nobody wanted India to lose this match and no sporting fan wants India to do badly. But then, the reality is, such two-match series are killing Test cricket.

This is very much part of the ICC World Test Championship cycle, so a minimum of three would have been in order. If one does a snap poll, you are bound to get the verdict that a Test series like this needs to be longer. This two-Test contest was like the famous two-minute instant noodles. Certainly, Test cricket is not junk food. It deserves to be treated with respect and care.

Often, we will hear that Test cricket must be safe-guarded and a series has to be engrossing. For me, this series was just warming up, and suddenly it’s all over. If you go through the Internet, you will be shocked to find news of how South Africa are sending a sub-standard team to New Zealand for a Test series. How this happened is well known, for each cricket board has to answer finally for the decisions taken.
A country like Australia still values Test cricket, which is why Pat Cummins won the ICC World Test Championship final against India last summer in England. Even against Pakistan, despite the Asian side being weak, Australia have hosted three Test matches. Not only has it been a farewell for David Warner but also been the right advertisement for Test cricket in terms of preserving the game’s long format.
Nick Hockley, Cricket Australia’s chief executive, has said South Africa sending a weak team to New Zealand is a “wake-up call” for the format. The article on ESPNCricinfo highlighted Hockley’s thoughts on how the FTP (Futures Tours Programme) needs to do a lot more, going forward.

Is Test cricket starved of viewership or are costs of holding a match high? Well, each format has to be preserved – T20, ODI and definitely the red-ball Test stuff. The revenue from staging a Test may not be proportionate, but today, the big nations make enough money. The explosion of T20 leagues has guaranteed money comes in – if not through gate money, then certainly TV broadcast deals.
Big nations like India must take the lead in ensuring that Test cricket is treated as priority. After all, when England tour India soon, they are not going to play an anaemic two-Test series. It will comprise five Tests. The same when India visit Australia later in 2024 for a full Test series.

How India-South Africa was agreed upon as a two-Test series is a joke. Those who made that decision have robbed fans of wonderful contests which were building up. It is as if the lunch plate has been snatched away after soup was served. Yes, two Tests were delicious, but simply not enough.

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