Test cricket is the oldest format of cricket. Unlike other formats, it tests one’s patience and skills as a player to survive for five days. It has nothing to do with hitting boundaries or getting runs quickly on board. For batsmen, everything depends on their ability to face as many deliveries as they can. On the other hand, for bowlers, it’s all about making it hard for batsmen to survive on the pitch. Concentration is the key to surviving as well as picking up wickets. A single delivery can undo all the efforts of batsmen. All these situations and struggle add to the beauty of this format. Even the last hour can leave the spectators in a state of confusion. A single wicket turns the tide in favour of the opposition.
Test cricket is like a war that is fought over five days. There is no room for complacency or lack of skills. Test Cricket is a sport where batsmen as well as bowlers get an opportunity to improve on their skill set. When a player has indefinite overs to play, you get an ample amount of opportunity to try something new. On the field, a batsman has no room to hide his lack of skills. A bowler would make no mistake while exploiting them. The same theory applies to the bowlers. If one does not have control over his line and length, then this format will punish you. This is what separates amateurs from quality players.
Neither ODI nor T20 assesses a player in such conditions. Test cricket is a test of the mental as well as the physical character of a player. Everyone has their way to approach this format. Virender Sehwag used to bring out his explosive batting to put early pressure on bowlers. Cook and Dravid took their time to settle and understand the nature of the pitch. Smith constantly moves on the crease to make it difficult for the bowlers to find the best length and line for him.
For Suresh Raina: “Test cricket is the only thing that counts. One-day and T20 performances are fine, but you rate a player by his status as a test player. By the time I finish, I want to play at least 80 tests and be known for my achievements in Tests.”
Small battles and victories over sessions define the nature of the team. Each player tries to develop as time passes by to bring out the best version of them to stand out in defining moments. Pakistan vs Australia on 7th October 2018, Yasir Shah bowls the final over to the Aussies captain. Tim Paine who led a hopeless Australian team had the opportunity to give his team hope, a base to build on. With two wickets left Paine knew he had to face the final six deliveries by himself. A moment that tested his temperament and patience, unlike anything he had ever faced in his career. He went on to face those six balls and pulled out a draw which helped his team to grow.
According to Ravichandran Ashwin “The beauty about test cricket is you are always aspiring to be perfect but you can settle for excellence, so that’s pretty much I think I do.”
For Ashwin, a player tries to do their best to achieve perfection. It is in the search for perfection a player finds the motivation, a drive to do better. Let’s look back at Australia vs India 3rd test match at SCG. Day 5 India was on the verge of losing the match. This defeat could have impacted their chances of claiming victory on foreign soil. Vihari and Ashwin stepped up on that day to save the day. A day when both of these players tried to achieve perfection by holding on to their wickets and scoring runs to win the game. By the end, the target was out of reach, yet their excellence was enough to draw the match. An innings that represented what test cricket stands for. An innings that brings out the subtleness of this format, even after a decade this innings will still hold its value, the value for what it stood for.