In times of the past, the Ashes for me portrayed the pinnacle of Test Cricket. As a pure lover of the game; I always looked at it as being totally fair and logical to have the series marked by five Tests for not even one fewer would do.
As times passed, with the global growth of the game, cricket expanded from being just a sport to becoming a business where another P word soared to more relevance than the pure love for the game.
This new word was profit.
Yes, profit overtook purity in cricket. One fears, that might be the case as we cricket lovers ago along a sport we can’t imagine our lives without.
The pioneer of this change was none-other than India, who became the game’s powerhouse with the sheer monies it brought to the table through television revenues, the result of cricket being a religion in this country comprising of 1.4 billion devotees.
True to their impassioned spirit, Indian cricket has done wonders to the sport- birthed new careers, revived fading ones, executed a new football-like format that today is the adjective for entertainment. But is that all?
Along with offering nearly exhaustive amounts of cricket to the audiences, India must also introspect how immensely have they turned cricket also into bits of corporate enterprise.
Where big wickets and huge runs also tantamount to big bucks.
Hence it was no surprise that when India played Australia and England, a typical three match series just wasn’t enough.
So, what followed was India contesting at least four matches in each test series against England and Australia in the nexus that would be called the Big 3. Need I say in England it went up to five.
For me the purity of Ashes as the epic contest of cricket had lost its relevance.
Having said this, make no mistake, when it comes to performance, India is also as strong as any team in world cricket, else they wouldn’t be contesting the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.
Which brings me to the question I have raised in the title of this article.
If New Zealand and India are the best two test teams based on performance in the world today, why is England only playing New Zealand for a two-Test series and India for five?
Performance shouldn’t see discrimination, unless we are very much mistaken in presuming that we are in times where everything is utterly transparent and fair.
Well, the only plausible answer as to why New Zealand are being played in too fewer Tests seems to be pointing toward is profit-not performance.
The England Cricket Board would not earn way as much playing New Zealand in a five test match series as they would playing India.
Tremendously talented that they may be, and we know the Kiwi surge evident ever since the last two years, perhaps the organisers feel they are not crowd-sellers.
But wait, there’s a logic in this.
A mighty populace like India can fill stadia anywhere, but will New Zealand do the same?
The two countries are truly comparable on cricketing skills, regardless of the wonderfully talented India holding the edge, but how huge does New Zealand appear in sheer fan base when compared to India’s?
Regardless, to answer the question, for me based on pure performance in this beautiful game- NO- New Zealand don’t deserve just a two-match series against England.
It’s not even because they are the finalists of the much-awaited contest against India, but because by sheer will, the team that’s still described as ‘underdogs,’ made it to the finals of the ODI World Cup.
Anyone wondering why they’re quite nearly everyone’s sentimental favourites should look at more reasons that amass a wealth of respect at the team’s feat other than thinking about the fact that one of the world’s best batsman is their captain.
Look at their ODI and T20 rankings. Look how they hammered the most dangerous cricket team in the world when they suffocated a Kohli-led India back in 2019 year end.
If in an ideal world, the number of matches in a series are decided keeping profits aside, with the only consideration being skill, aptitude and performance of the two teams in question, YES, New Zealand more than deserve an equal number of matches in this series against England as much as the Pommies would play against India.
Only then can one attribute fairness to this sport.
Well, in today’s time when cricket is dictated primarily by profit, does fairness really matter?
I leave this answer to your better sense of judgement.