When I started the email thread on the epic scale of a 5 test series, I did so with some sense of guilt too for I am not sure if a 5-test series is necessarily healthy for cricket at a time when the big three corner the calendar disproportionately to serve their self interest. Like you mention in that little parentheses, there is such a miniscule chance of a 5-test series between any teams beyond the big three at the moment. Is it any coincidence that more frequently India-Eng-Aus play each other that there is less space in the calendar to accommodate a fair length series for teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, let alone Bangladesh. South Africa, purely on the strength of the quality of their cricketers is able to coast along the middle tier – with attraction of their stars pushing it up and relative poverty of their board and domestic market pulling it down. I am thinking about all this right now because we see Pakistan in yet another cruel 2-test bout with a big three team.
Just statsgurued the numbers. There have been twenty one 5-test series since the turn of the century. 18 England, 11 Australia (only one non-Ashes series), 4 India, 4 South Africa and 4 West Indies. On the apology of 1/2 test series Bangladesh tops the list with 51 series, New Zealand with 44 and Sri Lanka with 36. To no one’s surprise, England (17) and Australia (18) have played the least.
Of course there have been periods in history with a similar skew of calendar hijacking by the major teams. A cursory look at Lillee’s record is enough to reinforce the point. But somehow we are regressing from the barely desirable start of the future test programme. The Test championship is more of a formal acceptance of the status quo of the two tier test calendar than a solution.
Anyway that’s a never ending debate. I was thinking about how Pakistan even after all these years of systemic suppression continues to be so relevant and still so compelling to watch. I almost went for the M(ercurial) word but Misbah army (rightfully) will hound me for such casual remarks. They might be treated as a sideshow to India’s English summer despite possessing the superior record in those conditions, but Pakistan can still make it an absorbing series. Ireland’s debut test, no sweat, we’ll make that a contest too. A team made for the vagaries of a 5-test series hasn’t played one since…1992!
Also I was a little amused when Pujara was celebrated as this rare batsman in current times who plays Test cricket the proper way (whatever that means) in the big three universe after his Southampton hundred, while ignoring nearly a whole team which plays that way. Pakistan and Sri Lanka could produce one of the most dramatic series of all time but the mainstream cricket writing in the big three universe will still be singing a dirge for the format.
Thank Sachin for Osman though. He is a gift to Pakistan cricket and in turn for most of humanity…ahem ahem…at least a fair few of us. There was a line on Pakistan cricket at large in his lovely piece on Hafeez – as GH would say, that line is unimprovable.
“…but you know how it feels like Pakistan are never really anywhere, not firmly in the present era, only tentatively looking towards a new one, and not fully convinced that the older one is done?”
Did you watch the Prithvi Shaw innings? It was so enjoyable to watch a natural strokemaker make such an assured debut. I am a sucker for good back foot players from Mumbai and the last time I saw one I was shouting from rooftops that he would be the next Sunny – poor Jaffer faced the curse of my discriminating instincts. Given my track record, I should say nothing more about Prithvi Shaw. I liked this little video too where among other things he called Rohit a proper Mumbai khadoos batsman – is there a greater compliment to a Mumbai batsman? With that my agenda is done here