It’s nauseating to see the number of articles detailing the plight of Test cricket these days. Most cricket pundits seem to think the longest format is under major threat, and want to enforce this opinion on the general public through any medium available to them.
No body knows where this threat is actually coming from – dwindling crowds in the subcontinent is often sought as a common excuse, but if that’s to be taken as a benchmark then we might as well have buried the five-day game 15 years ago. Revenue from advertisement and TRP ratings compared to T20s is another common complain, but by that measure Test cricket’s been on its death bed since the advent of the one-day format.
The latest grumblings filtering through are regarding the actual quality of Test cricket on display. England is number one, but they get their slates wiped clean by Pakistan. India was number one, but got trampled when they decided to test their arsenal outside their fortress. All this see-sawing, and inability to dominate like the Australia of 00’s is supposedly unhealthy and unfit for the longest format. Supposedly it’s also a mark of mediocrity, and a sign that the Test teams don’t possess the world-class batsmen or bowlers they used to.
Last time one checked, close competition between the top brackets of any sport is what made it compelling. It is what makes men’s professional tennis the greatest it probably has been in its history. It is what makes the Euro in football a much better viewing than the World Cup itself. It is why most in the US don’t care about the regular season of the NBA, but come playoff time, even non-followers are hooked to their TV sets. It is – (and this just to drive home the hypocrisy of such statements) – what makes the IPL apparently so much more thrilling and consuming than any thing else on the planet.
One can call up a friend statistician, and come up with a dozen indicators to support the argument about the lack of modern quality Test cricketers, but the beauty of the purest form of the game alas, lies in much more than just numbers. If Jonathan Trott is supposedly the only great batsman in the last five years, than where do Cook, Amla, Develliers, Clarke and Gambhir slate in? If the major reason bowlers have done well is only because they have had to adapt like the “women of this liberated world”, leaving no space for conventional good bowling than what do Asif, Amir, Anderson, Broad, Bond and Steyn count for?
But, perhaps when it comes to Test cricket, there is no need for such petty justifications. Perhaps it is best to sit back and let the format do its own talking. Like it did last year when first Sachin Tendulkar, and then Michael Clarke struck hundreds by immense skill and determination on their respective tours to South Africa. Or like this year, when Warner unleashed his wrath in Perth with some of the cleanest hitting imaginable. Or in the desert, when Ajmal and Rehman spun a web so dense, so mesmerising that even the smallest of targets was whisked out of sight.
At the end of the day, no matter how many such pieces are typed and tweeted, the beauty of Test cricket remains to the viewer, as vivid as ever. Which leads one to the simple conclusion – it is not Test cricket that has a problem, it is it’s so-called caretakers that have just fallen sick.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.