It’s the age-old question for cricket lovers: ever since the dawn of Test matches almost a century-and-a-half ago, commentators, critics and fans alike have speculated on whether the game loses something of the spectacle when it ends in a draw. Of course, to some extent, it does – but is that not part and parcel of the sport itself?
Of course, cricket is a very different beast than it was when the first Test between England and Australia took place in 1877. Nonetheless, the fundamentals of the game remain largely the same and it has only ballooned in popularity in the intervening 145 years. With that in mind, we delve deeper into the question: should we get rid of draws in Test matches? Here’s a brief rundown of the pros and cons of the suggestion below.
The case for the defence
Puritans will outright reject the notion that the game can be enlivened by altering its rules so completely so as to preclude the possibility of a draw as an outcome. They will point out that in the more than 2,300 Tests contested to date, some 32% of them have ended in a stalemate. That’s very nearly an equal share with a home and away win.
As such, those who wish to retain the draw will argue that the possibility of that result is what makes the sport so exciting for fans. No matter how superior a team is on paper and in practice, if they cannot land the final knockout blow, their dominance will count for nought. What’s more, some of the most enthralling matches have ended in a draw, while others which looked destined to be tied were upended by a dose of high drama on the final day.
The last – and perhaps most persuasive – argument for retaining draws is that it merely caters to a materialistic demand to prioritise the attention spans (and wallets) of the audience over sporting integrity. After all, what is a Test match if not an opportunity for two sets of athletes at the top of their gain to try and beat – or else, avoid defeat against – the opposition. All else should be moot.
The case for the prosecution
On the other hand, there are those who do not share that latter view at all. Indeed, when Test matches are timed so as to capture the biggest TV audience, hosted in the stadiums which hold the largest capacity and make a shedload of money from overpriced food, drinks and merchandise, it’s hard not to escape the notion that perhaps they ARE really there to satisfy those watching over all else.
The infrastructure that has sprung up around cricket would certainly support that theory. Today, fans of the sport can get involved in it in so many ways besides playing it: by selecting a fantasy team comprised of their favourite players; by visiting a bookmakers or betting exchange to place a bet on the action (those unfamiliar with the concept of a betting exchange can read more about it here); or by trading Panini stickers of the stars a la football.
At base, what it all boils down to is the excitement of the spectacle – not just for fans, but for players, too. A lengthy list of ex-pros have all called for the abolition of Test draws, claiming that it makes the game more boring to play, as well as to watch. But without the lows of a stalemate, would you really enjoy the highs of a dramatic victory so much?
What do you think? Should Test cricket stick to its guns and retain draws as a valid outcome, or devise a system wherein they have become obsolete? Let us know.