Cricket: Who gives a toss?

By Sam Hewat

Is it time for the toss to be expelled from the game of cricket? Photo / Photosport
Is it time for the toss to be expelled from the game of cricket? Photo / Photosport

The Black Caps have only won four test matches away from home in the last two years.

Four of 15 - and they've lost the toss 10 times.

Ricky Ponting and Michael Holding avidly campaigned to get rid of the toss from test cricket last year. The argument is that away teams have the ability to prepare their wickets in such a fashion, that winning the toss almost becomes an integral part of the match's outcome.

Now, the test game is falling into such a crisis, the idea might actually have some strong validity.

Consider this, Pakistan have only lost three of their last 20 test matches at home.

Similarly, India have only lost two of their last 20.

Clearly there is an advantage to playing at home, that's always been the case in cricket. And no one is advocating for teams not to be able to prepare their wickets in the way they want.

But for all of Pakistan's victories and draws, only three came when they lost the toss.

Likewise India have won nine of 15 after winning the toss.

The toss, completely down to a 50/50 chance, is becoming too important.

And it's not just the Kiwis.

Australia have played five test matches in the sub-continent in the past two years. They've lost all five tosses, and all five matches.

England have played just two in the sub-continent in the past two years. They've lost both tosses and both matches.

With the test game in decline, crowd numbers and TV ratings dropping in favour of the shorter formats, test cricket needs to bring back competitiveness.

Mike Hesson agrees, telling Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch that even he, a strong traditionalist, has now changed his tune.

"I think it evens up the contest when teams tour away," he said. I know it takes away from tradition, but based on the record in the past five years with teams that tour away, it becomes more of an uneven contest."

Two years ago, Black Caps selector Gavin Larsen would have squashed the idea. Now, he thinks the ICC need to move seriously to look at how they deal with the toss.

Hesson believes the competition is already stiff enough without throwing in the added challenge of winning a game of chance.

"People want to see competitive matches," he said. "I think sometimes if the home team prepares surfaces that are in favour of one skill or another then it can become lopsided."

Travelling to the sub-continent, playing in excruciating climates and high altitudes is a challenge in itself. If the away team has the ability to choose whether they bat or bowl first, test cricket may once again become the competitive spectacle it used to be.

- NZ Herald

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