The two captains shake hands. The umpire flips the coin. The coin lands… The game is decided. According to cricket, according to some analysts, according to many fans, the game is over. Whoever wins the toss, wins the match. This may, in hindsight, be wishful thinking while Australia are 50-odd for 4 in the all-important 4th Test, but England have won the coin toss, bowled first, with only four bowlers, and done very well.
So is it crucial? It does give the winning captain a choice. Bowl; or, usually, bat first. ‘Get some runs on the board.’ Set the other team a target. Compared to football, compared to tossing for which ‘end’ to play toward; compared to who serves first in tennis, the flipping of a coin has a direct impact on how a cricket match develops. The captain is in control. Or is he?
It’s a tough choice. If the wicket is flat, then the batsmen are jumping for joy. If it’s green, then the bowler is chomping at the bit trying to pick up early wickets. If it’s in between, a bit green, a bit flat, who knows? The skill of the captain.
I’m not overly convinced the toss has such a great impact. Many commentators claim it’s crucial. I believe if your team is good enough, if your batsmen are better, if your bowlers are better, if your fielders are better, you’ll win. If it’s close, again, it’s the skill and ability that’ll decide the game, not who wins the toss of the coin (unless you’re playing in Sri Lanka or Leeds ;o))