We do it like this. Only.
It’s very odd, and a little bit disconcerting, but I’ve never seen a Test match.
I mean, of course, I’ve seen plenty of Test matches on TV – and my parents and my wife will gladly attest to this – but I’ve never, ever seen one in a stadium. Ever.
For shame, I’ve actually seen an IPL match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. And I saw India’s best ever one-down execute an ugly pull that went straight down a fielder’s throat. Which, in hindsight, was Test Cricket’s way of punishing me for going to an IPL match in the first place. Lesson learnt, I’m happy to report, and I haven’t gone for one of those ever again. I’ve seen them on TV, yes – and some of them have been worth the watching – but live? Never again.
Which makes me a dodo. I realize that.
Friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances – all look askance when I proclaim my love for Test cricket.
“Five days?”, they sneer. “And for what?”
They are not without a point, I’ll grant them that. Even for a rabid test match fan, certain things are hard to swallow. These include Test matches in Sri Lanka, Bhajji bowling down the legside, and well, Test matches in Sri Lanka.
But I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Test matches is where it’s at.
They start with that inspection of the pitch. If it’s Australia or South Africa, commentators will analyse it for the slightest hue of green. And promptly declare that the Indian middle order will find it difficult to survive, let alone make runs. They’re right most of the time, of course. But on those glorious occasions when they are wrong, it makes for fantastic viewing.
And then the toss becomes all important. Because if you lose the toss, you’ve lost the match. Unless, of course, you are Sourav Ganguly at a certain ground in England.
And then the all important first session. When discretion is the better part of valour. Unless you happen to be a batsman called Viru, of course.
And so it continues, the gently undulating test match – with each session a battle in itself, with strategies, targets and plans unfolding over the space of two hours – seemingly unhurriedly, yet an with an underlying urgency that builds up to an almighty climax. Think England in 2005, or India in 2001 – and that’s about as high a compliment as I’m willing to pay the Aussies: they were the opponents in either case. Almost every Test in either series either went down to the wire, or featured battles-within-wars that can still be savoured today.
T20’s just don’t allow that, you see. Not with the format they have. You come in to bat, you hoik and you go back. Then the other team comes in, they hoik and they go back. Ravi Shastri introduces the presentation committee, and everybody goes home… well, happy, I guess.
There’s no time for Sachin to plan Moin’s dismissal on the last ball of the day, or for Gillespie to draw in Sherwin Campbell as patiently as a fisherman reins in his catch (two boundaries Mr. Campbell scored off fullish deliveries. And twice did Gillespie walk back, shaking his mullet. The next delivery was a little wider, a little fuller had a little more deviation off the pitch. Hook, line and sinker).
Every over, every delivery has a plan that works towards, or is a culmination of some carefully thought out strategy. And if you have the time and patience to appreciate it – well, true treat, that.
And which is why watching a Test in its entirety is so much fun. You should take your own time over it. Linger over each detail, take in every little field adjustment, and immerse yourself in the whole thing for the entire five days. Sure, it moves slower than your typical one day international, let alone your T20 – but hey, sometimes, slow is better.
There’s a phrase for it even – Festina Lente. It means to make haste slowly.
Maybe I like Test matches so much because that’s how I’ve lived all my life, I don’t know.
What I do know is it’s never too late to make amends. Which is why I and a friend of mine (who buys into this philosophy wholeheartedly, by the way) will take three days off from work, and go down to Namma Bengalooru to watch India take on the Aussies from the 9th to the 13th of October.
Work, deadlines, projects and schedules be damned.
We’ll spend five days watching cricket the way it should be played. Because it’s the only form of the game, really.
Oh, and because we’re hoping, fingers crossed, for an epic jugalbandi.