The ICC continues to succeed in its attempts to kill the longest format of the game.
Test cricket headed for the attic, a place in which it could hide and possibly repel the advancing murderer that is the International Cricket Council (ICC). ICC, however, could spot its prey’s white, billowing flannels and chased Tests stealthily.
This calls for a flashback, if you’re unaware of the reasons behind the cricket body’s seeming hatred for the longest version of the game. Test cricket, mind you, is a serial offender. In an age of garish T20 cricket, the 450-over format seems quaint and anachronistic.
But isn’t quaint lovely? Don’t you feel the goose bumps when you see Don Bradman make a hurried exit from the arena after being dismissed for nought in his final vigil at the crease? You don’t, it seems. It’s all too dull, perhaps.
Well, to not renege on my promise to maintain objectivity, I should stop making a case for Test cricket. It is colourless and odourless, like water. And who drinks water when a cocktail is readily available, right?
So, really, Tests have committed this severe crime. Hence, the ICC, the protector of our sources of entertainment, was forced to hunt down this killjoy. Vigilantism, perhaps, but nobody is complaining.
This time, however, Test cricket did manage to lock itself up in the attic. Upon reaching the bedroom, ICC suspected it knew where the ‘criminal’ hid itself but decided to wait until it reared its ugly head again.
That could happen very soon, if England and Australia get involved in a tight Ashes series. If it does happen, one can sense ICC may finally put Test cricket to death. For its popularity will grant the governing body an opportunity to employ a covert operation.
Really, ICC excels at this. Though, not when it is running helter-skelter to please the BCCI! Quite frankly, the reality of ICC functioning as BCCI’s proxy is not lost on many. A parody Twitter account, ‘The Real ICC’, makes the point quite amusingly. The account’s Twitter handle—‘ReallyTheBCCI’.
The self-description is revealing, “2013 Mission Statement: To have meetings. LOTS and LOTS of meetings…oh and always say yes to the BCCI of course.”
The administrators may condemn a lot that is expressed on this Twitter account but most fans won’t. After all, they’ve been taken on a ride for too long and refuse to take their seats anymore. Though these aficionados of the game also need to take blame for the decline of Test cricket, let’s focus on the ICC today.
One could argue it’s a chicken-egg situation. If fans don’t enjoy the longer formats, the ICC will be forced to promote the popular version of cricket. But really, where do the origins of this apathy lie? Surely, decisions like setting an absurdly low number of minimum Tests to be played by a country in a four-year period emasculate the oldest type of the game.
16 in four years, bellowed the ICC recently. Seemingly, impunity is abundance inside the corridors of its Dubai headquarters. Simple math would tell you, four Tests in 12 months. If India decided to play only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in a year to stick to the stipulations, I would be forced to turn to YouTube as my saviour from this Gitmo-like treatment.
For years, I’ve believed Test cricket suffers in the modern age due to lack of quality contests. The problem is not Test cricket but poor Test cricket. One can recall a couple of epic series in this century, India-Australia in 2001 and the Ashes four years later, and nobody seems to say they didn’t have the time to watch the matches. Golf fans don’t complain that a major lasts four days.
The format doesn’t deserve the blame for the duration it lasts. Our admiration for short opinion articles, which are so quickly digestible, may have grown with the times but avid readers can’t seem to shake their appetite off for reading long-form pieces. If you were to seek the reason behind this affection, the depth of the reportage or commentary would be the most common response.
Cricket, like writing, is an art. Any form of art acquires its permanence in our minds due to its ability to enhance our living experience. I’m certain, such enhancement doesn’t occur through 180 minutes of merciless assault. The assault needs to be accompanied by rosy possibilities and, perhaps, dull phases. Even in those periods, the story chugs along towards its denouement. The twists will arrive, for it’s a story, but they may remain invisible till they can. Perhaps, that’s an ideal conception of Test cricket but certain elements have surely been missed.
Unfortunately, even an incomplete yet idyllic idea of the longer format may not be palatable to the ICC’s tastes. One would hope, from Wednesday, Australia and England would provide us with a glimpse of a time when one didn’t need to frequent YouTube for witnessing quality cricket. The world governing body’s ways are painful but we’re helpless. Only a minimum of 16 tests in four years? ICC, you’re having a laugh!