Bengaluru, July 24: Come August 1 and the cricketing world will be witnessing a big change in the game's oldest format - Test.
On this day, the first match of the Ashes will be played at Edgbaston and both England and Australia players will be donning the traditional whites with names and jersey numbers on their back.
This is already in vogue in ODIs and T20Is and now red-ball cricket is also set to witness the same. Nothing perhaps would have been more befitting than an England-Australia game to see the new change for these were the two teams that had played the planet's first Test match way back in 1877.
The Edgbaston Test will also be special for it will mark the beginning of the inaugural World Test championship.
The tournament will continue as an integration of all bilateral series that will culminate with the final in June, 2021. We have already seen beginning of day-night Tests. Importing non-plain white shirts makes Test cricket a bit more modern.
Though fans are not universally happy about this change. Some feel there is no need to bring these changes and Test cricket should be left in its pure white form. They feel it is the drive of commercialisation that forced this change.
Some others felt that even if the name was fine, there was no need to bring in the numbers. Expert commentator and cricket analyst Harsha Bhogle though saw nothing sinister in this change and said it would help spectators sitting in the distant stands in the venue to identify the players. In a tweet, he also recalled his own childhood experience when he used to ask other people who a particular player was.
I like the idea of having numbers and names on shirts in test cricket. Helps spectators identify players (as a kid watching games, I was always asking people who a particular player was. Often, they didn't know either) and takes nothing away from the game.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) July 23, 2019
When Test cricket has seen some bigger changes like pink ball matches under lights, then the cosmetic change of introducing names and numbers on white shirts doesn't make much of a difference. Test cricket has long changed in its spirit, thanks to the advent of the more modern forms that seek attacking styles. The World Championship in Tests will make the format even more competitive one assumes. And if the very approach to the format has changed, one more mere physical change shouldn't concern people.
One can still argue that when matches are more seen off the ground than on it and people watching them on TV or Internet do not really have to see names and numbers to identify players. The logic has an element of truth in it. Even at venues, penetration of Internet and presence of giant screens do not make a player's identity mysterious any more. But still, the counter argument will be why not capitalise on the players' brand name and numbers? When everything else has changed, adding a name and number will not harm Test cricket. We are not really preserving the old soul of Test cricket by playing it in whites.
We should still be thankful to the organisers that Test cricket is still alive. It doesn't matter in what attire do we play it.