In the last 10 years of Test cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan has been wicketless in only five out of the 153 innings he bowled in. He sent down 2, 10, 13, 4.4 and 26 overs, respectively, in the innings he went wicketless. The last occurrence, in Ahmedabad, against India in the first Test that ended in a draw today, was also only the third time he bowled over 25 overs and yet failed to take a wicket.
It is not that the Sri Lankan’s bowling has declined sharply – he still averages eight wickets per Test this year. Clearly, the Ahmedabad wicket was not meant for bowlers – its corollary is that it wasn’t meant to enthral spectators.
Lovers of Test and One-day cricket are entirely different beasts; in limited-overs cricket, you need batting-friendly wickets to satisfy the crowd that has come to see bowler-bashing. Folks who love Test cricket have subtler cravings. They want good batting, good bowling, good fielding; they want to see the fortunes of both teams wax and wane over time and, above all, they want to see an equal real contest between bat and ball.
It’s a pity that Ahmedabad didn’t provide a good Test wicket. Nearly 1600 runs were scored for the loss of 21 wickets. If there was a possibility of a result on the fifth day, it was only because of two reasons: one, the Indian top order failed to apply itself on the first day and lost four wickets for 32 runs, thus missing the really, really massive total the conditions demanded; two, the Sri Lankans successfully batted in a manner they’ve mastered at home, piling huge scores and then letting Muralitharan loose at the opposition.
Muralitharan got three wickets in the first innings, two of them tailenders. In the second, of course, he was rendered impotent by the pitch and the prudent batting by the Indians.
In the end, it was a tame draw, bereft of any thrill. What’s amazing is that last year at the same venue, in the Test against South Africa (of all teams – they had Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis, for goodness sake!), the curator provided a pitch with a green layer at top. India were promptly routed. Exactly what prevented the curator from preparing such a pitch against Sri Lanka, whose pacers had eight Test caps among them going into this game? (Thilan Tushara, who was ruled out of the match at the last minute because of a shoulder injury, has played only nine Test matches.) Wouldn’t it have been more exciting to see the batsmen display their full range of skills on a lively pitch?
A recent MCC survey says that only seven percent Indian cricket fans think Test cricket is the best form of the game. This figure, the methodology or the sample size of the survey may be contestable, but the fact is that Test cricket is under threat. Authorities say that all forms of the game can coexist, but it’s clear that they’re adversaries.
Players themselves know or believe that Test cricket is the best test of a player’s skills. The fans of Test cricket also believe so. But pitches like the one that dulled the cricket at Ahmedabad can only also dull the ardour of Test cricket’s aficionados.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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