I read that support is increasing for the concept of substitute bowlers or batsmen in Test Cricket. This would be a terrible innovation!
The justification for the idea seems to be that the physical (and even mental) demands on cricketers having to adapt from Test Cricket to 20/20 Cricket and everything in between are becoming too tough. I have two problems with this.
Firstly, “substitutes” would defeat the point of the game – a five-day challenge between two teams of eleven who just have to deal what is thrown at them. The weather, the pitch, yes, even the potential for injury are all part of the game – adapting to them tactically and mentally are integral to the challenge. Let us not kid ourselves either that substitutes would only be used for injured players – almost no sooner had rugby union introduced substitutes than tactical substitutions were in practice the norm. Allowing a team to realise it’s made a mistake and can thus throw on the extra spinner it didn’t select originally, or to take off an under-performing batsman, would fall well outside the spirit of the game.
Secondly, I do not accept the premise. Cricketers do not have to switch from Test to 20/20 and back – indeed, increasingly I believe they shouldn’t. The two are diverging, to the extent nearly of rugby union versus rugby league, and that is no bad thing. 20/20 has the potential to capture fans of the game from a certain section of society; and Test Cricket an entirely different section. It may be so for players too. As such, 20/20 should be the innovative version – subs and all. But Test Cricket should remain what it is – the ultimate five-day mental and physical challenge for two teams of eleven.