Do you remember the year 2001, when Dravid & Laxman played a 376 run match winning partnership or Brian Lara’s 153 against the likes of Glenn McGrath & Shane Warne? For someone who has been a cricket fan through these years when there was no such format called T20, cricket was something pure.
Ever since the emergence of the 50 over format in the 1980’s, Test Cricket was still considered the real game until a new era of a fast paced format emerged that just wiped away the beauty of the game. When we talk about the legends of the game, we often hear about Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Akram, Steve Waugh, Brian Lara, Shane Warne and so on. All these players were major draw in the 5 day format. How often have you heard the experts talking about either a Michael Bevan or a Sunil Narine who have been wonderful in the short formats but not in the longer one.
I started being a fan in 2010 when the T20 format made its place in the market. I was fascinated with this form of sport which is so quick and entertaining. You get to see the hard hitting, the doosras, the scoop shots more often than before. But that same year, I decided to watch a test match on Television. I began watching it on Day 1, and guess what happened later. I was glued to the seat until the 5 day match got over. It was a complete addiction. One may think what was so special in it? Well, generating an inning, the spirit of the game, the temperamental test, the technique & skill, the possibility of coming back into the game in each session… These are the few things that made me enjoy this format to the core. The IPL is held every year and as the years pass by my interest in the quick format starts declining.
Heroes are made in just one day the next day that same player gets out on a duck. Every year we get to see the same stuff happening… bats getting swinged anywhere, the bowlers who are considered great in the longer format are being hammered by ordinary batsmen who is just slogging his bat anywhere in a flat pitch where there is no relevance of line & length bowling. On the other side I am watching James Anderson who is getting wickets with his reverse swing in the longer format. Now this is something far better than the former. There is a say… form is temporary but class is permanent. So where is the class in the 3 hour format. Sorry to say but I don’t see a class in MS Dhoni’s sixes or Virat Kohli’s hitting…
Now looking at it from a business point of view, T20 gives the boards everything that they desire for their benefit – short time, more crowd, players getting less fatigue, getting fixtures held one after the other to generate more & more money. For a rookie cricket watcher it is a 3 hour entertainment just like a movie but for a real cricket fan who has witnessed the likes of Mcgrath, Warne, Steve Waugh, Dravid, Ponting through ages, it is just a plastic. There need to be some ways where the traditional form can be saved in the future. I do see a few nations like India, Australia, England sustaining this form of cricket with the other nations managing with the shorter format just to survive in the long run. We have heard about the dominant West-Indies era in the 70’s & 80’s. Now this team is ranked eighth in test cricket and ninth in the One days. This is solely due to lack of participation. At present there are three nations dominating the world of cricket with India being on the top. Thanks to the iconic ashes tours that is helping this form survive on a long term.
An MCC survey revealed that only 7 % of cricket watchers in India prefer Test cricket as an ideal form. This figure is itself alarming to know. I love watching test cricket specially in England, where the ball is wobbling through the air at each delivery. The last time India defeated England in their home conditions was in 2007. That team comprised of technical greats like Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Ganguly, Tendulkar… It was the same year the IPL tornament started and these players gradually faded away from the One-Day scene. I would say that England is a place where the actual batting gets tested in the 5 day game. Even Virat Kohli who has scored runs everywhere had a struggling time against the likes of Anderson & Broad on their conditions. This is where your actual technique gets tested. The recent collapse of South Africa at Nagpur pitch showed how the level of test cricket has gone down with the match ending in just 3 days. Some of the legends also shared their concerns after this match.
Now, the cricketing bodies need to make a fixture plan to reserve a few months in a year only for test cricket to serve it to the audience at frequent intervals in order to generate more interest in it. Otherwise, it faces a real dark future ahead.