The Magic of Test Cricket

by Ashish

If time hung heavy on your hands, and if idly browsing through the archives of this blog seemed an attractive way of whiling away a desultory afternoon, you would soon discern for yourself a fact that your author couldn’t hide if he tried.

I love cricket.

That in itself is hardly surprising. I was born and brought up in India, and irascible families will commit to the neighborhood asylum those youngsters who show an inkling for sports other than cricket. But where your author differs from the majority of other cricket fanatics who populate this country is in his unabashed love for the longest form of the game, Test cricket.

Test cricket is sport at its best. Ignore, dear reader, those uncouth writes from other shores who would tell you of the ennui that cricket can guarantee, and close your ears to the beguiling sounds that the sirens of other sports create. And revel in the luxuriant, lush celebration of a contest that only Test cricket can provide.

What about Test cricket, you ask, is so fascinating? Plenty of other writers, far more talented than I, have already provided definitive, exhausting answers to what seems to be a rather simple question. My take on the issue is rather simple.

You are on an outpost of the web that would prefer to remain delusional about the popularity of T20 cricket, so that element of the game is not even up for discussion. Suffice it to say that my arguments against one day cricket are more effective against T20 by an order of many magnitudes.

One day cricket, a more refined form of T20, is not really a contest between bat and ball. On the face of it, it seems to be. There’s a bowler who runs in, and bowls. And there is a batsman, who bats. In that simplistic sense alone, cricket remains the same across all forms. But in one day cricket, and here is where the problem resides, one wins by scoring more runs than the opposition.

The idea, then, is to simply score more. Akin to the arcade mode of a video game, one day cricket logically becomes a platform for batsmen. The bowlers on either side are simply cannon fodder, for the victor is decided not on the basis of who took more wickets, but rather on the basis of who scored more runs.  Bowling simply becomes a necessary, and sometimes downright troublesome accessory to an evenings entertainment. And like the arcade mode, the more you play, the more ridiculous your scores become. Very soon then, the game becomes more (and more openly) about entertainment than it does about contest. It is no coincidence that cricket nowadays is more about razzmatazz than it is about sport.

A game of Test cricket, on the other hand, can only be won when you score more than the opposition, and take all twenty wickets. Test cricket, then, is more unforgiving. Victory is not achieved by simply being better than the opposition in one department alone (batting), and nor is it achieved by being better than the other team in the other department (bowling). It is achieved by vanquishing the opposition.

That sense of complete victory, of having defeated in entirety, and not just along a parameter, comes only with Test cricket. It doesn’t come always, for if you do not take twenty wickets, you may end up with a dull, dreary draw – but when it does come, you leave the opposition no wriggle room. You played on the same pitch as your opponents over the course of five days. You scored more than they did, and you took all of their wickets. Twice. Rarely does the phrase “well played” carry more significance.

There are many more reasons to love the grand old form of the game, but they’re all secondary. In no other sport, let alone other forms of cricket, do you have to earn your victory twice over.

Play on, gentlemen.