SO, IS TEST CRICKET BORING?
Every now and then a Test match comes along that reminds us that it is indeed the real thing. The first India-England Test at Chennai was one such without a shadow of doubt. The twists and turns, shifting balance, changes in momentum, varied skills and conditions, the sheer drama was fascinating, and has no parallel in sport. Right till the last session on the fifth day it had everyone spellbound. The crowd was sparse to begin with, but when the people realised that this was a special game they were drawn to it as if by a magnet, and the finale had everyone on their feet, roaring in unison. The hero of the moment was the same endearing little fellow who has enchanted the nation for nearly two decades, yet he surprised even the diehards by appearing in yet another reincarnation, of an anchor, guide, usher, mentor, one so nonchalantly in control that the treacherous voyage seemed like a gentle cruise.
The aftermath had everyone asking the other, “Did you see the Test?”. Those who did not, yearned for a video of it. Those who did, were satiated by the sheer theatre, the suspense, the unmatched spectacle. True, a Test match takes a long time to play out its course. Indeed, modern lifestyles do not afford the time to watch it in its entirety. But it is not always a matter of watching it live all the time. There are various ways of following it, even after it is over, and that has always been the essence of Test cricket. To play a good standard of Twenty20 and the One-dayer, one needs to learn the traditional game. To understand the shorter versions one needs to understand Test cricket. That is why Test cricket will go on. It is the real test that gives vent to myriad skills, it is the game that tests the mettle like no other truncated form.
Was it not just two decades ago that it was being argued that the One-day game would sound the death-knell of Test cricket. Look what has happened now. It is One-day cricket that is under threat from the latest innovation, Twenty20, while the Tests go on unhindered. Doubtlessly, there will be more modifications, they will perhaps come faster, but all the newer models will be in the truncated form, not in the classic Test matches.
Test matches have stood the test of time, survived two world wars, the eclipse of the Commonwealth, the Great Depression and the Packer revolution. They have held the stage for nearly 132 years, while the One-dayer stands challenged in just over 32. T20 may well be a twenty- year wonder, perhaps less, before the demands of the market throw up more glitzy variations.
The administrators need to understand the true worth of the Test match, and play enough of it. They need to realise that good wickets, those that give a fair chance to both the batsman and the bowler, produce good Test cricket. They need to make Test matches affordable for the paying spectators, and to give them decent facilities at the ground as well as easy access. A team can play fifty or sixty days of Test cricket in a year, but not that number of One-dayers or T20 games in the same period. There will always be more Test match days than any other form, so the powers-that-be must make it enthralling for those who follow it. The shorter versions feed off the traditional form, and it is for this reason that adequate care should be taken to facilitate Test cricket in a manner that will make for attractive play, for the players to express themselves to their utmost.
Test cricket is a heritage, and it needs to be preserved like every piece of heritage that we are blessed with.