There is more money in sport today, and athletes play more games, and as a result many records from the past tumble on a regular basis. However are these records beaten by players with higher levels of skill or simply because they are playing more?
Last night Stuart Broad ripped through Australia’s batting line up in the third Ashes Test match at Trent Bridge, and recorded outstanding bowling figures of 8 wickets for just 15 runs. The best bowling figures by an Englishman against Australia. At one point he had taken 5 wickets in 19 balls. only Australia’s Monty Noble and England’s Jim Laker have taken five wickets quicker, having achieved the feat in 13 balls. Both of these players having done so before wickets were covered.
Australia’s innings was the shortest first innings in test cricket lasting only 111 balls. The next shortest was over 100s ago in 1896!
This was only the 7th time Australia has had both opening batsmen dismissed for ducks, and it was only the 3rd time that Sundries had top scored in an Australian innings. Incredibly Peter Nevill was the only Australian batsman to face more than two England bowlers.
You get the picture, it was a pretty woeful day for Australian cricket. The selectors are being blamed, so too Captain Michael Clarke, but it would appear the problems are far deeper rooted.
Nine of the ten Australian wickets to fall were the result of batsmen edging balls to the slip cordon. Virtually every single one of them saw the batsman push at the ball.
It is a well known fact that in Australia the hard and faster wickets mean that batsman can push at the ball more as the ball comes onto the bat, and usually does not swing in the air as much as it does in England. Therefore to succeed one must adapt one’s technique to suit the conditions.
In years gone by touring sides had warm up games against the County sides and also played them in between test matches, so that players could adapt and gain some form.
Today’s scheduling has seen these games abandoned as the administrators try to cram in more International games be they T20 ODIs or Test matches.
Many of the warm up games have little or no meaning, such as when touring sides to Australia play against a Prime Minister’s XI, or play a State side but are allowed to use more than eleven players. Then you have the warm up games played in different conditions to that in which the Test match will be played. Sri Lanka played a warm up game in Tasmania and the first test in Perth.
These meaningless games have little or no appeal to many true fans, and the lack of proper warm -up games has meant that Test Matches are becoming very one-sided affairs.
Winning a test series away from home is becoming a dying art. In 2013 only two Tests out of 41 played were won by Touring sideband both of those wins occurred in Zimbabwe. Please note games played on a neutral venue are not counted.
In 2014 things were a little better of the 36 Tests played 11 were won by Touring sides. Four of those wins came in Zimbabwe and one in Bangladesh. Bangladesh were the only side to win three Test matches away from home winning 3-0 in Zimbabwe. Australia were the only side to win two tests in a series on the road winning two Tests in South Africa.
Winning on the road is becoming increasingly difficult and fans parting with their hard-earned money for exclusive tickets to such events are beginning to see far more predictable results.
Is it the players fault that they are not given enough time to acclimatise, or is it the administrators who insist on back to back Test matches and shorter tours which must incorporate a round of T20 – which was always supposed to be a sideshow – and One Day Internationals?
There is no doubt that most of today’s players are not as technically sound as their predecessors. Yet they are not given as much to time to adapt to foreign conditions. Yet one feels the players of the past by having that solid technique had a better foundation on which to adapt. Sure they did not score as fast, but they knew how to occupy the crease, grind a bowler down and accumulate runs.
Australia’s players have been lambasted for their capitulation, but in truth was it solely their fault?
If the fans are to see a real contest, and the game is to become a more balanced affair when a team goes on tour the warm up games have to be given more importance and must be played in a proper competitive environment.