After an overdose of limited overs cricket – first the 20-20 variety of the IPL followed by the 50-50 variety of the World Cup – what a pleasure it was to see the game’s traditional format at the home of cricket. For a change the bowlers were not trying to restrict the scoring but looking to take wickets – the very essence of Test cricket. And there was action galore with 20 wickets falling on the opening day of the England – Ireland game with the minnows dominating. What more can the connoisseur of cricket ask for?
I have nothing against limited overs cricket. They are essential for the game, particularly its finances. But while they provide entertainment Test cricket is about enlightenment. The players themselves have openly expressed the view that their ultimate aim is to excel in Test cricket. And for the true cricket lover there is nothing better than an action packed day of the game’s longest and traditional format even in these days of slam bang cricket. Besides, I have always maintained that the three formats can co-exist.
At the risk of being called old fashioned, let me say it again – there is no real substitute for Test cricket, the engrossing tussle between bat and ball and the elaborate strategic moves and tactical planning. The purist and the traditionalist who have grown up on a staple diet of Test matches that sometimes do not produce a result even after 30 hours of play would certainly have enjoyed the events as they unfolded on Wednesday. Test cricket is like a long, well directed suspense film. Like an unputdownable whodunit one sometimes cannot guess the denouement.
The leisurely proceedings, players in white, day cricket and the red ball have provided a refreshingly different scenario from the surfeit of slam bang cricket. There is an undying charm about Test cricket that still makes it the highest art form associated with this great game. The heightened suspense spread over five days and the fluctuating fortunes are but two of the many factors that one relishes about Test cricket. Some of the orthodox strokes and the prodigiously swinging or viciously spinning deliveries were the kind you would not see in the shorter version of the game. After all the text book is the very essence of Test cricket.
Ask any budding cricketer and with all the many attractions associated with the shorter versions of the game he will say his ultimate aim is to play Test cricket. A cricketer who excels only in limited overs cricket will still lament the fact that he didn’t play Test matches. Ultimately it is the Test record of a player that stands the test of time and is set as a yardstick not the figures in Fifty50 or Twenty20 however impressive the latter may be.
Speaking for myself I just cannot wait for the Ashes series to commence!