One Day Matches Killed Test Cricket Interest, T20 Hastened Its Demise

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Test Cricket is Played for Records and Not for Entertaining Crowds – These are The Days of ODIs and T20.

Not many will agree. Not even Gavaskar and Tendulkar. Not even Wasim Akram or Waqar Younus, neither Zaheer Abbas nor Azaruddin, nor Ponting or Waugh, nor the living cricket legends like Hanif Mohammed or Gary Sobers or Clive Lloyd, would agree that it’s time to say good-bye to Test Cricket. I have many reasons to say that Test Cricket is fast becoming obsolete and boring these days.

I was just watching the game between the depleted West Indies and the resurgent Bangladesh Team playing out in the Carribean Islands. I also watched the on-going match between Srilanka and Pakistan in Colombo where Srilanka is playing for a clean sweep, Pakistan to salvage some prestige. There was hardly any interest in the middle. There were not many spectators in the ground to watch the dull and lifeless proceedings battling it out on the hard summer day. I saw players playing at their leisure, blocking each ball or leaving the outswingers, which would have easily been despatched out of the ground by our own Shewag or Yousuf Pathan, if it were either One Day International or T20. There was hardly any enthusiasm in the field either.

The players looked tired while changing sides. Just lethargy all round. Even the two batsmen in the middle showed hardly any enthusiasm or interest. It appeared that they were playing not for the crowd but to cement their place in the side or for records. Hardly a run is taken in one over. I saw one Pak batsman scoring just 2 runs in 40 balls. Dullness is all pervasive.

I still remember with nostalgia during those days when the Test matches were played with great fanfare and enthusiasm. People used to wait in queues from the middle of the night to get their tickets, some sleeping on the platform and some even used to bring blankets along with food. That was a craze or great enthusiasm for the game. When the match started, from the first day onwards, the stadium would be full to capacity for all five days, barring a day break in-between.

When India and Pakistan played either in Lahore of Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, there was jubiliation all over. It was a festive atmosphere in both countries. I still remember, the State Government used to declare a holiday on the first day of the Test match. Police forces could be seen everywhere and there were traffic diversions. On those days, there were no TVs and very few had radios in their homes. We used to pin our ears to the wall of our neighbours to hear the commentary or stand in the hot sun in front of the newspaper office where the scores were displayed on a giant size board. Everyone used to be concerned about the match whether a small boy or 80 year old man or woman. Such was the enthusiasm and importance attached to the Test Cricket in those good olden days. Today, everything has changed.

First it was the advent of One Day World Cup matches staged in England, or Kerry Packer’s colour revolution that brought changes to the game of cricket. But then, Test matches still continued to draw a huge crowd, as there were very few ODIs and more Test matches were played.

Then the frequency of ODI matches brought a new flavour to the entire game of cricket. The instant cricket or big hitting game produced many young cricketers who became instant heroes. The game became popular and drew more and more sponsors. The game was commercialised. From a dull Test match to a very vibrant game of ODI all changed the interest of the people. Test cricket started waning.

Then came another shortened form of game. It was T20 matches. It became still popular and drew the youth to the game. Never before opportunities opened wide for upcoming cricketers. The young and old started enjoying this game. This shorteened form of game produced many heroes and people started identifying themselves with them. This sent Test cricket to the background further. The T20 World Cups and IPL all hastened the demise of interest in Test cricket.

In those days, people had enough time to watch a game of Test Cricket. Even Hockey was not watched with such enthusiasm or interest as the Test Cricket matches. But then changes in the very form of the game were responsible for making the game of Test cricket a dull and boring affair. There are hardly any sponsors or ads during the breaks. Even the Sponsors of the game realised the folly of supporting Test Cricket.

Test record holders like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Azharuddin and even our own Dravid and Gunguly may not fully agree today. Perhaps these record holders played more games of Test Cricket than Bradman himself had played. Bradman scored 29 Hundreds and his record was broken by our own Sunil Gavaskar who took double the number of matches to reach the milestone. No record holder of today could hold a candle to the record held by the legendary Don Bradman, not even our own Sachin Tendulkar, who scored a record number of 42 Hundreds.

Notwithstanding the records made or broken, Test Cricket is at a crucial stage. I have a feeling that Test Cricket could soon be disbanded and there will be more ODIs and T20s than Test Cricket. After some time, even ODI would also loose its sheen giving way to an abridged T20 form of the game. It would not be a surprise or wonder, to me, if this game is further reduced or shortened to T10 matches.

People cannot waste their time going to Test venues to watch a dull game for four or five days, notwithstanding the result it would produce or the performance of the individuals. But then enough is enough. It’s time to say good-bye to Test Cricket. Sooner it is better for the game.

I believe this is the common view of the spectators and general public today, that Test Cricket is dull and boring as it lacks the entertainment one can find in ODI or T20 matches. Not all readers or Test Cricket enthusiasts may fully agree with the views expressed here. But I believe a day will soon come when this would become a reality and this author would be remembered as the foreteller of the future of Test Cricket. Jai Hind.

A.M. Jamsheed Basha is a Chennai-based columnist, political commentator, who writes on matters of importance, political, social and self-improvement.