Test cricket is the ultimate format of the game. True to its name, the format tests a player’s skills, adaptability, and mental resilience.
Playing a Test match is not smooth sailing. And it becomes even more challenging when a team plays in away conditions. That is one of the reasons why away Test wins are cherished for a longer time. (Remember India’s series wins in Australia in 2018-19 and 2020-21.)
However, the visiting teams face a lot of challenges that significantly affect their performance in away tests.
What challenges, you ask? Well, I will explain 5 challenges faced by a travelling team in Test cricket in this article. Let’s play!
1. Travel Fatigue
If you have travelled overseas, you must have felt jet-lagged due to the change in time zones. Something similar happens with the travelling cricket teams.
Now imagine that the New Zealand cricket team is travelling to England for a Test series. The time difference between New Zealand and the UK is approximately 11-12 hours.
So, once the Kiwis land in the UK, they have to adjust their body clock according to the UK time zone. And this can turn out to be difficult for the first few days as the players battle with staying awake at night and sleeping in broad daylight. This, in turn, impacts a player’s sleep cycle, focus, and energy levels.
2. Getting Familiar with the Playing Conditions
Now, this is a crucial aspect of playing away Tests. The players need to acclimatise themselves to the playing conditions.
Let me explain this with an example.
Suppose England is touring India, where the pitches offer little to no help for swing bowling. So, England’s prominent swing bowler, James Anderson, might find it difficult to swing the ball. He might get some swing with the new ball, but swinging the old ball can be tricky. As a result, Anderson has to come up with some bowling variations to trouble the batters with the old ball.
The same goes for batters; when Indian batsmen play in swing-friendly conditions like England, they need to adapt to the conditions and time the shots well to score runs.
3. Less or No Warmup Matches
One way to get acclimatised to the playing conditions is to play warm-up or practice matches before the main series. But nowadays, teams are finding it hard to schedule practice games thanks to a packed international calendar.
The recent Ashes series is the prime example of Australia not playing a single warm-up match against a county team in England.
Since the teams can’t get sufficient practice, they might struggle in front of the hosts.
4. Unpredictable Weather Conditions
The visiting team might find it difficult to become familiar with the weather conditions in the host country.
Imagine England playing a Test series in Australia’s peak summer, where temperatures soar around 40 degrees Celsius. The average temperature in the UK ranges from 9 to 23 degrees, and sometimes it can go up to 30 degrees.
You’ve just flown down from the UK 4-5 days ago, and dang, you are playing test cricket in extremely hot conditions, not for just 1 day but for 5 continuous days! So the English players will face problems while playing in the Australian summer.
The weather might take a toll on a player’s body, draining them of energy. And sometimes even the host nation’s players might suffer.
5. Adjusting with a Different Cricket Ball
Now you must be wondering, “Are you serious?”
Well, I am dead serious.
You see, not every country uses cricket balls manufactured by one company.
For instance, Tests in England and the West Indies are played with Dukes ball. Cricket boards in the Sub-continent (except India), Australia, and New Zealand use the Kookaburra ball. While in India, balls manufactured by SG are used in Test cricket.
So this poses a challenge for the players to adjust to different cricket balls in a shorter period of time. And now the players have to deal with two types of Test cricket balls — red cricket balls and pink cricket balls.
Bonus: Mental Wellbeing
This is the most ignored aspect of playing a Test, let alone playing in away conditions. Recently, a few players took a break from cricket to improve their mental state.
As I mentioned earlier, Test cricket examines a player’s mental toughness. Playing a series that lasts for an extended period can be mentally taxing.
Add to it being away from your family and friends to make it even worse. This might reflect on an individual player’s performance throughout the series.
For fans like me and you, it’s easier to pass judgements by sitting in front of TVs, but it’s not easy to battle it out in such challenging away conditions.
The visiting teams fight against the odds and try to adapt to unfamiliar conditions to give the fans a thrilling Test match experience. So, the next time you see your favourite team or player struggling in an away series, spare a thought for these hard-working cricketers.
That’s it from my side. If you think teams face any other challenges in away conditions, drop them in the comments below.