After three months of T20 cricket and one-day internationals we are really looking forward to a month of Test cricket and a hugely challenging series with India. As a cricketer, Test cricket is the ultimate examination of one’s abilities and temperament so we are all excited to be back playing this format.
There is no doubt that India have some vastly experienced players, including a middle order with over 30,000 Test runs under its belt. But, as always, our preparation is more about ourselves and less about India. We seek to control what we can control and that is how we execute our own game plan.
The change in format will require a shift in mindsets. Batsmen will need to bat for runs and time. We will also have to adjust to pitches where the ball is likely to do more than is normal on flat one-day tracks. It is essential we build partnerships, rotating the strike well.
This is especially important should India play both their spinners, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Sharing out the strike prevents one batsman from being forced to shoulder too much pressure. It makes it easier to bat for the long periods that are essential for building the big totals we’ll need.
The bowlers, too, have to change their mindsets and adapt. Like with the batting, partnerships are crucial. This helps build pressure. The bowlers must also be very disciplined, bowling one side of the wicket to their field. Every ball counts when trying to create pressure and we cannot offer any easy runs.
Lastly, but very importantly, our fielding needs to be right up to the mark this series. We are playing a very good team and we cannot afford to miss opportunities. Taking a half-chance, or creating a run out of the blue, could easily break a partnership and turn a game.
This series will also mark an important change to world cricket with the commencement of a referrals trial in which teams will be entitled to up to three unsuccessful referrals per innings. The on-field captain or the batsman (not the non-striker) will be entitled to appeal by making a “T” sign with his arms.
I am very supportive of the trial as I believe it will help improve decision-making and reduce incorrect decisions, especially in cases where a clear-cut mistake has been made. However, I also believe strongly that it has to be handled in the right manner and spirit with players showing responsibility.
Referrals for line decisions in tennis have worked extremely well and do not slow down the game appreciably, one of the original concerns about a referrals system. But a previous referrals trial in the Friends Provident Trophy in England was less conclusive.
I believe in that case only 11 decisions were referred – they could only use during televised matches – and in each case the original decision was supported. I believe some players felt umpires were reluctant to overturn the decisions of their fellow umpires.
However, we can’t draw too many conclusions from the Friends Provident trial as it was very limited in scope. Being a domestic tournament it is quite probable that the limited quality of TV pictures rarely outweighed the benefit-of-doubt philosophy. Thus, trialing now in international cricket where we have over 25 cameras running at any one time will be more illuminating.
It will be fascinating to see how it works out. As a team, we’ll need to look at ways of maximizing its benefit. Does that mean that the non-striker needs to support the batsman? And does it mean a new responsibility for wicket-keepers to give instant feedback to his captain. We’ll have to wait and see.