Matthew Hoggard: Timeless Tests would suit me down to a (very large) tea, following on from lavish lunch

What I Learnt This Week
Click to follow
The Independent Online

With time on my hands, courtesy of that punchbag fighting back and putting my wrist in plaster, I've been thinking a bit about timeless Tests. And I've come to the conclusion they would have suited me down to the ground – given the right conditions, of course.

More than 70 years after the last open-ended Test (ironically, it failed to produce a winner, despite nine days of cricket, because England had to pack their bags in order to catch the boat home from South Africa) there is talk of playing to a finish when the first World Test Championship, in 2013, comes down to the last two teams.

What a fantastic thing! I would love to play in a timeless Test, especially if it were to be staged at Lord's and my team was guaranteed to win the toss on a dead flat pitch. With any luck, our first innings would last about four days and tail-enders like myself would have nothing to think about other than the next meal. And I can tell you that the next meal at Lord's is always worth looking forward to.

By the time England declared on 1,250 for 6, I reckon they would need a wheelbarrow to cart me out to the middle.

And it wouldn't be too bad, either, if you were an opening batsman who nicked a catch behind on nought and got out to the only ball that moved off the straight in a week. You could go away for a short family holiday before your services were next required.

But, seriously, it would be fascinating to see how the players of today would tackle a timeless Test. More and more games are finishing inside four days, and even inside three days in some cases, so would the tempo of batting change just because time was irrelevant?

And what about the balance of the team? England have been going into Tests with only four bowlers for quite a long time now but they would surely need at least five, including two spinners, for a match which could see them spend day after day in the field.

The World Test Championship is one idea for increasing interest in the longest form of the game but while the authorities are clearly worried about falling attendances in most countries, I am not as pessimistic as some about the future of Test cricket.

Obviously, Twenty20 is very exciting for spectators, and produces some very skilful cricket, but I'm sure Tests will always remain the true test of a player's standing in the game.

Of course, it would be terrific to see every ground as full as Lord's has been this week but I am not sure that day-night Tests – as suggested by a number of people – will make any real difference to attendances in those parts of the world where crowd numbers are already in decline.

There might be an initial novelty factor, thanks to pink balls and floodlights, but if people have given up on the idea of spending large chunks of their time to watch cricket then I don't think playing Tests in the afternoon and evening will have much effect. I guess a lot of spectators go to T20 games specifically because it is all done and dusted in three hours and they are guaranteed a result.

2. Let modern bowlers have a go at Bradman. That gets my vote

Given that more than 250,000 votes were cast when cricket fans around the world were asked to name their best Test XI, there must still be a fair bit of interest in the old game.

As with all these types of polls, not that many people seemed to agree with the team selected. But then so many great players have graced the game over more than 100 years that you could probably pick 11 different combinations and argue that every one of them could be the best.

I think each and every era has produced its fair share of fantastic players. Of course, just about every sport seems to be getting quicker and the bar is forever being raised – quite literally, of course, when it comes to some of the jumping events. Some of that is due to training, some of it down to the equipment. When you look at the footballers of old, those who used to wear heavy boots and kick balls that weighed half a ton when they got wet, you wonder what those blokes would be able to do with modern gear.

And, going back to cricket, it is clear that players of yesteryear had some fantastic skills, particularly when they were playing on uncovered wickets.

I think most of us, when we are playing, tend to think our era is the best. But, really, it is impossible to compare. Basically, those players who stand out in an era – any era – must be exceptionally good.

I'm not sure I would want to transport myself back in time so I could bowl at Don Bradman, for example. But, that said, I would love to be able to put the likes of Bradman and W G Grace on a modern-day pitch against modern-day bowlers and just have a look at how good they were.

3. At £260,000, the one-off Sachin painting wins hands down

One star of this era, undoubtedly, is India's World Cup-winning captain, M S Dhoni. And while I did not exactly rub shoulders with him earlier this week, it was great fun to be at the launch of his Charitable Foundation on Monday night.

What an eye-opener. Held at the Hilton on Park Lane in association with Habitat for Humanity and organised by the Essentially sports marketing group, it was a glittering charity dinner affair attended by some of cricket's biggest names and Bollywood's brightest stars. And there was some serious cash flying around, I can tell you.

Much of the money raised will go towards building a school in India for underprivileged children. Now, I don't know how much that is going to cost but the fund got off to a fine start when the bat used by Dhoni in the recent World Cup final – the one that hit the winning six against Sri Lanka – fetched £100,000 at Monday night's auction. Well, MS did autograph it before the bidding began!

But even that wasn't the top earner. A one-off painting by the artist Sacha Jafri – commemorating Sachin Tendulkar's career and India's World Cup win, and containing original handprints and signatures from many of the world's greatest cricketers – went for a staggering £260,000.

It was a really good evening and all in a terrific cause. And for those of us not quite able to compete with the bids for bats and paintings, there was the consolation of catching up with old chums. Like my former England team-mate Andrew Caddick.

Ten guesses what Caddy is doing now. OK, I'll tell you – selling helicopters. So if you're fed up with traffic jams and want to buy a chopper...

4. We should always go green and produce pitches for our seamers

No surprise that Dhoni's fundraising dinner was such a success because, after all, everything he has touched of late has turned to gold. And he will be hoping that after helping India to the top of the Test ladder – and guiding them to victory in the World Cup final – they can now beat England over here.

It should be a terrific Test series. I just hope that most of the pitches suit us, rather than the visitors, because there is nothing wrong in home advantage.

Of course, for the grounds staging these four Tests, there is always a balance to be struck between England winning and the Test going the distance so that they get five days of revenue. Yes, we are never far away from money raising its ugly head. But, ideally, we should be playing on green, seaming wickets to give us the best chance of bowling them out twice.

And, come to think of it, we shouldn't stop at pitches. Give the Indian team fish and chips or Yorkshire pudding for lunch every day, I say.

5. We need lie detectors so we know if batters have nicked one!

Technology has been in the news, with India refusing to use the ball-tracking system in this series. That means lbws are purely down to the umpire's judgement and that neither batsman nor bowler can ask for a review.

It is technology of a different kind, though, that Steve Waugh has in mind. The former Australia captain reckons that lie detectors should be used to help weed out any players guilty of corruption within the game.

As far as I'm concerned, anything that prevents match-fixing – or spot-fixing – of any kind is worth looking at. But, as a bowler, I reckon these lie detectors could have another use within cricket.

If someone was able to come up with a portable version, umpires could have one in their pocket. Then, when a batsman "feathers" a catch behind and stands his ground, there would be no need to call for a review – just wire the bloke up and ask: "Did you nick that one to the keeper?" Love it.

6. I won't fib, I'll have to get my finger out to make T20 quarters

Lie detector or not, I wouldn't tell you a fib. And I can reveal I was delighted to shed my up-to-the-elbow plaster cast on Wednesday night. Now I've got to wear a small splint for a couple of weeks and then, hopefully, progress will be pretty swift. As for whether I can make our T20 quarter-final against Kent next month, fingers crossed.