The declaration

Nov 18 2012, 02:08 IST
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SummaryTest cricket is increasingly considered to be endangered and opportunities to trump up its virtues generally do not go missed.

It cannot be denied that Test cricket is not without its quirks. One is the power vested with the skippers to alter the length of an innings in the pursuit of a result

Test cricket is increasingly considered to be endangered and opportunities to trump up its virtues generally do not go missed. One measure of its excellence is a more considered enjoyment of how a game unfolds over five days, and whether that is a satisfaction that is to be cherished over many others is up to the viewer to decide. While that may be so, Test cricketís very length combined with the possibility of an indecisive outcome makes it seem unwieldy and even pointless in the eyes of those who consider the format increasingly irrelevant. The arguments outlined are of course broad.

The nature of wickets, the competitiveness of fixtures and the frequency of matches, among a few other factors, can lend more texture to each proposal. Irrespective of where one stands with respect to the debate, it cannot be denied that Test cricket (as much as the other formats) is not without its quirks, endearing or otherwise. One of these is the power vested with the skippers to alter the length of an innings in the pursuit of a result.

The decision to curtail an innings has been used wisely, indiscreetly and even abused. The cavalier captain who declares his innings prematurely in the hope of forcing a result only to find the opposition run the target down at a canter is left feeling sheepish, if nothing else. There has been at least one instance where the declaration was not so naÔve.

Hansie Cronjeís South Africa had already claimed the Test series against England 2-0 at home when rain intervened in the final Test at Centurion, a dead rubber. South Africa had made 248 for eight in the only innings that was possible until the final dayís play and almost incredibly, Cronje offered to declare the South African innings early on the fifth day and forfeit the second, effectively making the match a one-inning shoot out. England, under Nasser Hussain, managed to chase the target down with two wickets to spare and the crowd simply loved it. Four months later it was revealed that Cronje had thrown the Test for a leather jacket and 5,000 pounds.

In more typical cases, the captain declares when in a position of strength, which

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