14 July 2011

On the Myth of Test Cricket's Approaching Death

As a loser who spends much too much time reading anything cricket related, it is hard to ignore the preachers of doom. At times they amuse, but mostly they just irritate.

I refer to a segment of cricket writing in which test cricket is constantly perceived as being under threat and every little thing or the other – empty stadiums, slow scoring rates, batsman friendly pitches, bowler friendly pitches, draws, rain, defensive play, aggressive play, red balls, pink balls, lights, no lights – is either an indication of, or a reason for “what is wrong with test cricket” or “why test cricket is not relevant” or “why test cricket is dying” or some such other bullshit.

There are plenty of such examples in the wake of the recent test match at Dominica. Like cockroaches crawling out of the woodwork at the scent of rotting food, an “abandoned chase” in a low scoring test series is simply too much to resist.

It amuses me because the people writing this stuff are obviously conflicted. On the one hand they watch test cricket and write about it and are interested in it. On the other, they are deeply dissatisfied with it.

It irritates me because it is nonsense. It particularly irks when this general rubric of fear is used to plead for changes to the game, or the inclusion or exclusion of specific players and playing styles. The message is always the same “test cricket must do this or that or it will DIE.”

Take for example this recent gem from Shashi Tharoor - “With the throbbing, pulsating, time-bound and cheerleader-inflected joys of Twenty20 on offer around the world, Test cricket looks in danger of failing the viability test that any activity depending on public support must pass.” Yech! Disgusting.

I do not watch test cricket because it is popular. I honestly don’t give a shit who else watches it, or whether market forces and trends favour it. I watch test cricket because it is simply the best game ever. And it sickens me when people suggest that it must change just so as to become more popular. It is characteristic of the insatiable greed that it is no longer shameful to espouse, maybe even fashionable today.

And the funny thing is – test cricket is as popular as I can ever remember. Over the last seventeen years of my love affair with the game, never has so much interest been shown, never has so much been written about it. In fact it is quite possibly due to this overload of interest that this rubbish ends up popping up everywhere

And what if test cricket were to lose popularity? It may attract lesser talent, there may be fewer games, and there possibly may not be television coverage any more. Would I still watch it? Yes. Would I rather it became more like limited over cricket to avoid such a fate? No. And in simple response to Mr.Tharoor, there will always be enough public support for test cricket because there are enough people who love it as it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no defender of the status quo. I would love to see more countries playing test cricket, more test matches instead LOIs, and more people watching them. But these things might not be possible unless test cricket were to become something other than itself. If there is a demise that one should fear, it is that.


Anonymous said...

What you say is correct. Test cricket is the original form of the game.
I am and would be watching it / following it as days to come.

Soulberry said...

Boards are making an active effort to revive the format. Look at the hype around WICB's efforts...