If Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Holding have their way, there will be no more commemorative coins to toss while celebrating special Test occasions.
Former Aussie skipper Ponting suggested—during the recent Ashes series—that the toss be done away with and have the visiting side choose which side should bat first. This would even out any advantage from pitches prepared to suit the home side.
Speaking to Melbourne Radio Station, Waugh said:
“I don’t mind that, I think that’s not such a bad thing. At the end of the day I think there’s probably too much emphasis placed on the toss and the conditions away from home. I don’t mind the authorities looking at some other options.”
Michael Holding, in his column for Wisden India, wrote:
“…the concerned authorities must look at what Ricky Ponting suggested – no more tosses. The minor setback there in my opinion, is that tosses are big for television. It makes for good tension, everyone is focussed on that coin when it’s in the air and the winning captain’s decision and so on. But that isn’t relevant now, times have changed and interest is waning in Test match cricket. What you need to do now is to make sure you have even contests between bat and ball. For that, there should be no toss and the visiting captain should be allowed to decide what he wants to do after inspecting the pitch. It’ll ensure better pitches throughout the world, because no one will look to build a pitch whose features are obvious, and which will give an immediate advantage to the visiting captain. They will try and prepare good quality surfaces that give no obvious advantage to anyone, which is what you want in Test matches. Some may say that policy will produce flat lifeless pitches with boring games. I disagree. You will still see a bit of ‘hometown’ pitches which suit the qualities of the home team more than the opposition, but the slant won’t be as dramatic as we tend to see in some countries now.”
In his previous post, the West Indian fast bowler elaborated on what makes a side great.
“Great teams can win home and away, and good teams will win at home. It’s as simple as that. I don’t personally see much wrong with that, to be honest. It comes down to how people classify them. Teams should only be qualified as ‘great’ only if they can perform all over the world, and can excel everywhere. If they don’t, they’re not a great team, and that’s fine.
I don’t think the boards should actively try and do something about making it even, you don’t need to say: ‘okay, we have to find a way of making sure teams can do well overseas’. On the contrary, talk to the individuals, the players who are actually playing and performing, and see what necessary adjustments should be done for them to be successful when they leave their homes. There is nothing wrong with people failing away from home as far as world cricket is concerned. I don’t think they should try and make an adjustment. If you can, you can. If you’re not good enough, you’re just not good enough.
Having said that, when you go to some countries, the pitches are prepared in such a way that they are highly in favour of the home team. And I’m talking about even going to some parts of the subcontinent, in India, for instance, where you find – not necessarily now, but quite a few years ago – pitches that turn from day one. It didn’t matter who was touring India, because they knew they had great spinners, and they would be brought into the game from day one.
In England, they changed the nature of the pitches altogether, because they recognised that without seaming pitches, they had no chance of beating Australia. As I said before, I don’t see it as a major factor when you say teams are better at home than overseas, but if you want to have consistent pitches in countries, then you have got to adapt the principle that Ricky Ponting suggested – get rid of the toss.
All you need is for the visiting team to look at the pitch and decide what they will do. Then you will always get consistent pitches, because if it’s too heavily favoured in one way or the other, then the visiting team can take advantage with their decision. That way you’ll get consistent pitches, but that doesn’t mean all of sudden touring sides will start winning away from home. They’ll get a better chance of winning, but at the same time, they’ll have to play well to win away from home, because you can’t change overhead conditions. The ball will still swing in England, and you’ll still need good technique to play there. But the pitches won’t be that heavily favoured to the home bowlers.”
Will the ICC look into the matter?
We don’t wish to see series everywhere decided by the toss and pitches suited to the home side.
We’d like to watch real contests and adaptable players, not bully boys who score by the tons and take wickets by the dozen in their backyards and come up a cropper elsewhere.
We need classy players and their class should be evident on all surfaces and in all conditions.
Take away the toss if that’s what’s needed.
Prepare sporting wickets if that’s what’s needed.
Make curators more independent if that’s what’s needed.
Do whatever that’s needed.
Just don’t let Test cricket die.
“Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust
How do you think I’m going to get along,
Without you, when you’re gone
You took me for everything that I had,
And kicked me out on my own
Are you happy, are you satisfied
How long can you stand the heat
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat”
I really didn’t want to write this article; I haven’t been catching the Ashes—the war of the English roses and the Australian wattles—a tradition itself within a traditional game.
It’s not that I don’t like cricket or that I’m overly patriotic and catch mostly India games (which I do) but I simply cannot bring up any passion for watching this series.
The Ashes—on television—are a visual treat; the commentating is excellent and there’s everything very attractive about the packaging of a historic rivalry that evokes memories of battles past.
I wish Indian television were able to come up with a better presentation of the Indo-Pak rivalry but aside from the jingoism it revisits, there’s little to recommend for couch aesthetes.
The five-match series began with the Aussies favoured by one and all. After all, they were the ODI world champs and had thrashed their Trans-Atlantic foes comprehensively in the series Down Under. The pundits predicted that Alistair’s goose was Cooked.
England surprised one and all by winning the first Test. But the Aussies were out for blood in the second and prevailed in a somewhat one-sided encounter.
To everyone’s surprise, the third Test ran along similar lines. Except this time, it was the home side that dominated from Day One. The return of Steve Finn implied that England now had three wicket-taking pacers; the weakness of this side has been that the support pacers are there simply to make up the numbers; they never were strike options.
Can Finn be the Steve Harmison of this side? Remember Stevie, from the 2005 Ashes in tandem with Freddie Flintoff pushing the Aussies on the backfoot in the absence of Glenn McGrath and the first signs of what was to come once Warne and he exited the greats.
England , not too long ago, were number one; they ascended to that pole position when they beat India at home in 2011. It is a number they have since ceded to South Africa.
Can they lay the foundation for another push at that supreme figure?
The next two Tests are crucial. Has the momentum shifted in England’s favour?
Will the Aussies bite back with venom?
The urn beckons.