Over the past few decades of following cricket, it feels like there has been a constant stream of predictions regarding the demise of Test Cricket. There have been various reasons posited.
These reasons boil down to the idea that Test cricket is too old fashioned for the modern world. That Test Cricket asks too much of people’s attention spans in an increasingly fast paced society. Also that it is...boring.
I’ve always been a Test purist. I think it is anything but boring. I enjoy other forms of cricket, but I have always enjoyed the fact that it is made up of countless micro battles. The result can tip back and forth over the course of days. That it rewards individual moments of brilliance, while still rewarding consistent team performance. Test Cricket is never over before it starts due to a few random factors.
A Shot (for Six) In the Arm
Twenty20 cricket was seen as the final nail in the coffin of Test Cricket. Its flash and spectacle ideally suited to the new world, and the money on offer for a far less demanding chunk of time. Understandably very appealing to players who have a limited window of time to ensure their future.
However, I have been delighted to see that Twenty20 has, in many ways revitalised and benefitted Test Cricket, which is undergoing something of a renaissance. The aggression and daring play that is required has filtered its way through to Test Cricket.
Test Cricket is now played, with new and innovative tactics and skills. Applied to the longer format has made no target safe!. It has also served as the perfect gateway drug for Cricket. You get people hooked on the shorter format before introducing them to the hard stuff.
Neither Fish nor Fowl (and often Foul)
It seems as if it is actually One Day Cricket that is feeling the pinch these days. Instead of retiring from Test Cricket to extend their careers, many great players seem to be cutting out ODIs. English captain Ben Stokes, who is hardly the epitome of a traditional player, the latest high-profile announcement. Australian Test cricketer, Usman Khawaja, is just the latest player to criticise the format and call its long-term sustainability into question.
It makes my old school cricket lover’s heart flutter to see players prioritising what I see as the highest form of the game Though I hate to think that ODI’s might soon be a thing of the past. I remember my excitement growing up, watching ODIs going down to the wire.
Having my heart in my mouth as tail enders marched out to try chase down a target at the death. Or, watching fielders and bowlers straining to get that final wicket. The world of cricket would be somehow less without that.
Time to reflect
But, that’s the thing. Some of the excitement has gone out of one day cricket. It neither has the frenetic pace of T20s, or the chess like unfolding of strategy of a Test Match.
It is too often played without any real stakes. Dragged out series played in front of empty stadiums. Teams go through the motions in games that make no difference in the scheme of thing. The same factors that make it vulnerable to match fixing—the fact that no one, including the players, really cares about the result make it easy to ignore for fans.
The ICC need to take a long, hard look at what place the ODI holds today, and try and nurture the format instead of milking it for every last drop until it is bled dry. Otherwise, one of these days. One day cricket may die.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html