Test cricket is a bad experiment

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We don’t mean that in the sense that we’ve tried Test cricket and it should now be abandoned. What we’re saying is that Test cricket is essentially a shoddily-designed framework for testing all sorts of hypotheses and the lack of clarity is what makes it so compelling.

Take India v Australia, for example. Have the home team taken steps forward since being battered on tours to England and Australia? Are Australia incredibly shabby in subcontinental conditions? Let’s test both those things simultaneously and therefore gain no conclusions!

If we then look at particular elements that contribute to those hypotheses, that too becomes difficult because nothing is fixed. Is R Ashwin improving as a Test bowler or is it just that he’s getting to bowl to Phil Hughes all the time? Is Phil Hughes really that bad or is he just up against a really good spin bowler?

Let’s not try and reach any conclusions. Let’s just wallow in the greyness.

And let’s take a look at India today. Australia have had enough of our attention in recent weeks.

Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara

Some vacuums do get filled and India’s batting line-up tends to suck in quality (although you should never get too cocky about this kind of thing because even the richest tradition of all eroded to the point that Pedro Collins had to be selected).

Cheteshwar Pujara is quality, so that’s a result for a start. Not everyone is convinced by Murali Vijay. All we know is that we saw some of his early Tests and liked the straightness of his bat. We were quite surprised when he then revealed a penchant for the heaved six in the IPL.

Another young Indian batsman we’ve liked in recent times is Ajinkya Rahane. With relative newcomers improving the side having ousted or replaced ageing stars, we wonder whether India’s batting could be improved still further through his inclusion.

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja

We like R Ashwin a lot. He’s got that quality where it doesn’t matter how expensive your sunglasses are, people can still tell that you’re kind of a dork – but in a good way.

We’re talking nerdy, studious dorkishness; the kind of guy who does things properly and doesn’t cut corners. He appears to take his bowling VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED and, as an added bonus, he also appears to take his batting VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED. That’s admirable and seems doubly beneficial when there might be players around who act like success and failure have little to do with their own efforts.

Ravindra Jadeja, we’re not quite so sure about, but he does seem to have improved the side. We still haven’t worked out how he’s managing to take wickets, but we can’t deny it’s happening. Plus he can bat.


We’re pretty sure India are better than they were. Then again, Australia do currently seem to be really, really bad in Indian conditions and almost entirely without direction.

Let the flawed experiment continue!


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. what happened to Abhinav Mukund? I’m fairly sure he was dropped after the England series in 2011 and never returned. Was it that India’s selectors decided that he alone was to blame for the side’s failings (except Dravid), or was it that he didn’t cut it in the toughest batting conditions there are for a subcontinental player in his debut series and therefore wasn’t deemed good enough for test cricket? Any danger of a bit of selection consistency from anyone but England?

  2. “Ravindra Jadeja…Plus he can bat”.

    You must be talking about a different Ravindra Jadeja. The one I see on TV has not shown any evidence of batting ability in test cricket. He is very much a bits and pieces cricketer – invaluable in ODIs, 100% dispensable in test cricket.

    1. He certainly looks like he’s comprised of bits and pieces, but thus far he’s somehow doing a job. And surely someone who’s averaging 50 in first-class cricket must pass muster as a number seven, even if he does play his cricket on the easiest batting strip in the entire world.

    2. I tend to agree with KC here. He seems to be good enough a bowler to be in the team when there is an Ashwin (or Ojha) as the primary spinner.
      And he brings in the promise of batting well, along with the guarantee of good fielding.

  3. As a former Nobel Prize winner (for my work on establishing the viscosity of rabbits), I feel qualified to say what makes a proper experiment. When you do an experiment you try to maintain all non-interesting parameters constant, so you can adjust one thing and see the result. If you adjust two things, you can’t tell which has the major influence on the outcome. Newton wouldn’t have got his face on the banknotes for the equation F = M x (a few things, depending on the time of day and what I had for lunch).

    Too many things change over too long a time frame for test cricket ever to be an experiment – venue and the form of the team you’re playing being two of the major ones.

    What would be proper science is if we could keep the time-scale quite short and the non-interesting variables as fixed as possible. Then we could tell something for certain. Say two four-match test series, in the same place, with the same home team, within a few months of each other. Hold on, I’ll just do the calculations.

    (The integral t squared dt from one to the cube root of three multiplied by cosine of three pi over nine equals log of the cube root of e.)

    Yep, thought so. England are ace and Australia are crap. And that’s science that is.

    1. How do you become a former Nobel prize winner. Did you have to give it back?

    2. I don’t mean to get pedantic on you, but I think you meant:
      F = (a few things, including…) x A

      The joke doesn’t make sense the other way round.

      No I don’t go out much. You?

    3. I don’t have access to Bert’s latest papers on the subject, but I believe male rabbits are 12, while the female are around 27. Ravindra Jadeja falls somewhere in between.

    4. Very viscous, John, as DC says. Believe me, they’ll have your finger off as soon as look at you, viscous little buggers.

    5. I don’t find any of this rabbit humour funny, Uncle Bert.

      Besides, I have just sat up all night so I am tired and irritable.

      Didn’t miss a single ball, though.

    6. I don’t know the viscosity of genetically modified aquamarine bear-dogs, but I still have my blender, so I can always give it a go.

    1. Perhaps England are better at playing spin than the debacle in the UAE suggested?

      NO, I think it just shows how bad the Australian selectors are.

      And Australia cannot play in India despite all the IPL experience. Funny how their best player of spin has not played in the IPL.

      Wait a minute – I think the IPL is to blame…


    2. @Michael I felt England had a fair bit of progression between the first game in the UAE and the 2nd Test in India. That’s a year’s worth of work and the experience of a dozen tour games and Test matches on those wickets.

      Australia basically just flew in the week after playing an ODI series at home. Come to think of it, it is bookended by IPL…

    3. @Angy

      More practice against spin? Novel idea! Mind you it worked for KCs favorite Australian Matty Hayden!

    1. We had to know HTML to do hover captions in those days. That was the level of effort we used to put in.

  4. We also have to remember that – england had 6 (infact seven tests including first in india) to practise playing against spin…before making any substantial mark.. Unfortunately aussies don’t have that luxury…Let us see what the South africans do in Dubai against ajmal & CO..

  5. Michael Clarke played for a straight delivery and was beaten by the spin. This is why CLARKE SHOULD NEVER HAVE TAKEN BATTING TIPS FROM THIS SITE.

    1. If that’s the case, the Aussies should definitely make sure they shoulder arms to Anderson’s inswinger and bowl short and wide outside off stump to Cook. That’ll do it.

  6. At the risk of sounding like a philosophical nutcase, isnt it all one big question? Cook would not have gotten out to the balls that most of the Australian batsmen did. This would have forced the Indian bowlers to try something extra, bowling more bad balls in the process.

    Similarly because Australia didnt bowl as many good balls as England did, the Indian batsmen were better settled and more confident in dealing with the good balls that did come their way.

    Conclusion # 1: Because Australia were worse than England, India played better against them than they did against England

    Conclusion # 2: I need to get more sleep

    1. We beat them and they lost to them so we will beat them.

      It’s the oldest equation in the book.

      Case closed.

  7. Well I don’t think so I think that a player wjo can perform in test cricket well can perform in any other format of the game because in order to succeed in test cricket you must have sound technique and a very good temperament so if you have a good technique you can perform in either of the limited formats if the game like AB De Villiers and Shane Watson,So I think that test cricket is a good experiment.

  8. try answering this –
    Why does Federer lose to nadal so often, but only Federer is discussed as GOAT candidate and Nadal is not?

    Does Nadal make Federer play bad or is he a much better player than Federer?

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