Once again, the Australians have failed to win a Test series in Asia since 2011. They escaped defeat in the Dubai Test match but crashed to a mammoth 373-run defeat in Abu Dhabi. The question is, would Australia have performed so badly if it was on their homeground? This series defeat is another instance of teams being unable to win in conditions away from home.
When India lost to England 4-1 in the recent Test series, critics blamed it on India’s inability to win on foreign conditions. It’s not India or Australia alone but most teams have not been winning series away from home recently. It is a fact that hosts create conditions that would work best in their favour, and thus even the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s ranking system is unable to portray the real strength of a team.
During a recent interaction, Geoff Allardice, ICC’s General Manager for Cricket, pointed out that he wasn’t keen to watch Test matches where the home team dominates all the time. He even remarked: “All countries have spoken about trying to make sure that playing teams get a fair opportunity to prepare, including net bowlers, warm-up matches, quality opposition, composition of the warm-up match, and pitch conditions.”
However, cricket boards are now in a mad race to play as many series as possible to fill their coffers and cricketers too are in a rush to play as many T20 leagues as possible for money. Thus coaches hardly get any time to guide players on how to play in conditions away from home, despite teams hiring specialists who are knowledgeable about the opponents.
Australia flew in earlier to the UAE than the other teams for this series but that seemed insufficient, especially for a team without their two finest players undergoing a ban. Pakistan dominated almost all days of the Test matches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi while Australia had only one moment of glory when they ensured a draw on the final day of the Dubai Test.
At a time when the popularity of Test cricket is under threat, if something is not done urgently to ensure an even contest between the bat and ball, fans will continue to stay away from watching Test matches. The beauty of Test cricket lies in watching a cricketer’s ability to exhibit his skills for a longer period of time. If the innings of a visiting team lasts a mere 50 overs or even less and teams start losing by an innings and 200-odd runs, or crash to defeats by over 300 runs, more fans will shun Test cricket. It’s just not enough to say that Test cricket is the ‘pinnacle of cricket,’ but steps need to be taken to make it exciting.