India will travel to England for their first five-match Test series in 12 years and it comes at a time when they are pushing for a shortened series in South Africa and have already reduced the number of Tests on their tour to New Zealand. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks at some numbers and determines whether India play lesser Tests and the reason behind the notion that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) aren’t too interested in the classical format.
While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) are keen to reduce the South African sojourn to a two-match Test series, its decision to approve a five-game affair in England in 2014 came as a bolt from the blue. The Indian board’s attitude towards Test cricket hasn’t been very encouraging in the recent past, bordering on neglect. Moreover, India haven’t played a five-match Test series for more than a decade, which made the decision even more surprising. Nevertheless, the purists would welcome this and hope it is a wind of change.
The last time India played a five-match Test series was way back in 2002 when they toured the Caribbean. Before that, their previous five-match affair also came in the Caribbean when they toured in 1997. Since 1990, they have featured in only three five-Test contests. Most of their assignments have lasted three games, at max four. However, India have played numerous five-match Test series before the 1990s. Here is a break-up over the decades:
|Decade||No of Five match series|
*during these decades, India played three six-match Test series each. Not counted in this table.
In all India have played 26 such series in their Test history. Off those 26 contests, only one has been played in England in 1959 — where India were whitewashed 5-0. If one is to count the half a dozen six-match campaigns in the late 70s and the early 80s, that count touches 32.
Here is a detailed table that analyses India’s 140 Test series (excluding the Asian Test Championship 1999) since 1932:
|Series Type||No of series|
It is evident that India prefers to participate in three-match affairs. Previously, there were more chances of having those long Test battles, but since the advent of One-Day Internationals and now T20, Tests have taken a little bit of a hit. Or have they? India in particular is accused of preferring the shorter format when compared to the classical version. Although, that may be the reality considering the board’s attitude, numbers do tell a different tale. Here are the number of Tests India have played in the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s:
|Decade||No of Tests|
One-day cricket actually arrived in India in the early 1980s and it truly captivated the people’s attention when Kapil Dev’s team lifted the World Cup in 1983. It became a commercial game in the 1990s and once can see that there was a drop in the number of Tests in that decade. However, in the 2000s, there was a sharp increase in the number of Tests played as they featured in more than 100 games — only England and Australia played more. The interesting thing is that T20 cricket arrived in 2007, but India continue to play Tests. They have played 25 Tests since the beginning of 2011. England and Australia have featured in 33 and 30 respectively — leading the charts. Thus, there doesn’t seem to be a drop as such. Then, what causes the impression that India are not too keen on Test cricket?
The main problem arises from the fact that the BCCI has been rigid as far as the Future Tours Programme (FTP) is concerned. For example, Bangladesh haven’t toured India for a Test series since they were awarded Test status in November 2000. Also, they aren’t scheduled to play one in India until 2020. Why is there an exception here when every other country is hosting or has hosted Bangladesh?
The most recent instance is also proof of BCCI’s rigid stance. The South African tour was scheduled to be a full-fledged affair, but they are pushing for a two-match Test series. It may have been to generate revenues at home or to do with Haroon Lorgat’s appointment as chief executive of Cricket South Africa (SA). The BCCI also reduced the New Zealand series by one Test match. Conflicting signs when compared to the move to approve a long series in England.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)