Test cricket remains true to its name and tests a player’s ability to play the game’s longest format. Even the players consider Test cricket the toughest format to succeed in as compared to the limited-overs format.
But what makes them think like that? What are the reasons that make playing Test cricket so hard?
In this article, I will list the reasons that make Test cricket difficult to conquer.
1. Transitioning from Domestic to International Cricket Standards
Even though the T20 format is making noise these days, there are so many cricketers who want to represent their country in the Test format. To earn the Test call-up, first, they have to play in their respective country’s domestic First-Class tournaments like the Ranji Trophy (India), County Championship (England), or Sheffield Shield (Australia).
Once a player performs consistently, they are picked in their national squad. But the battle doesn’t end here.
You see, Test cricket is like an upgrade to the domestic First-Class tournaments. The playing standard increases drastically, with the best of the best cricketers putting in quality performances.
The domestic cricketers might find it difficult to play against experienced international players. For instance, an Indian batsman on debut can struggle against James Anderson in English conditions, or a rookie South African bowler might find it difficult to dismiss Virat Kohli.
So, Test cricket demands new Test players to adjust accordingly, which they might find hard.
2. 5 Days of Cricket
Unlike a T20 game, which lasts 4 hours, or an ODI game, which lasts 8-9 hours, Test cricket is played over 5 days. Moreover, there’s no restriction on how many overs a team can bat. Of course, there is a restriction on how many overs are bowled in a day, but a team can bat as long as they want or until they get bundled out.
This non-stop cricket can take a toll on the cricketer’s body and mind — batsmen and bowlers alike. If this is not enough, they have to endure the challenging weather conditions.
Let me explain this to you with an example.
India’s batter, Cheteshwar Pujara, played India’s longest innings in Tests against Australia in 2017. Pujara faced 525 balls and scored a magnificent double century (202).
Now, it’s not just the balls he faced, it’s about how many overs he stayed on the pitch. Pujara came to bat in the 33rd over (32.2) and was dismissed in the 195th over (194.2). So, in total, he was on the pitch for almost 162 overs. And to add to this, he must have been on the field while Australia was batting in 2 innings, meaning he was on the field for approximately 400 overs! (Total 447 overs in the match)
Furthermore, Pujara did this all in the month of March, when temperatures start soaring as the summer sets in India.
Now this wouldn’t be the first time for Pujara, who has played many such knocks, but for newcomers, this can turn out to be challenging.
3. Staying Longer on the Crease
Cheteshwar Pujara’s innings was instrumental in helping India draw the match against Australia. And this highlights the importance of batting for longer periods in Tests.
Unlike power-hitting in T20 cricket, batsmen need to play more conservatively and build their team’s innings. This also helps them put a massive score on the scoreboard.
But not everyone is Pujara, there will be some batters who will try to go bonkers from the first ball. However, you need to find a balance between both, understand the pitch conditions well, and play accordingly.
And some batsmen may struggle to adapt to the situation, making it difficult for them to survive on the pitch.
4. Deteriorating Pitch Conditions
Since a Test match lasts for 5 days, the cricket pitch goes through a lot of wear and tear over the course of the match. And there might be a stark difference between the pitch on day 1 as compared to the pitch on day 5.
You see, there are many factors that contribute to changing pitch conditions, like players running down the pitch or hot weather conditions.
Now, assume a Test match is happening in Ahmedabad and the pitch is rolled nicely on the 1st day. But as the match progresses, the pitch starts to scuff up and becomes a bit difficult to bat on as the match approaches day 5.
The spin bowlers will love to bowl on this pitch, but the batters will have to trade with caution, as a misjudgement can cost them their wicket. And only a few skilled batsmen can tackle this situation with patience.
5. Predicting Ball Movement
Cricket has different types of balls, with the white ball used in limited-overs format, while the red or pink ball used in Test format.
Both the red and pink balls tend to swing more as compared to the white balls. Moreover, they also swing for a longer period, making it difficult for the batters to adjust to the erratic ball movement.
This restricts them from playing aggressive cricket early on and prompts them to play in defensive mode. This might be against a batter’s natural play. And they might lose their wicket trying to adapt to the situation.
6. Playing in Home and Away Conditions
Now, this is a crucial aspect when it comes to playing cricket. The players are not only meant to play in their home conditions, but they also have to embrace playing in away conditions.
Playing in different conditions can go one step further in Test cricket. And it can become more challenging if the player is just starting out in their career.
Someone like India’s ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin might struggle to pick wickets in England or South Africa if there is no help from the pitch. But he will find success in India, where the conditions are more supportive of spinners.
Moreover, there are other factors like travel fatigue or mental toughness that can also make playing Tests in away conditions even more challenging.
All these aspects make Test cricket a challenging format of the game. Test cricket actually tests a player’s skills and abilities to adapt to this ultimate format. And it takes a lot of time and effort to conquer the Test format.