By Aayush Puthran
The fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has provided some answers to those who rubbished Test cricket as “slow and boring” and embraced Twenty20 for its exciting finishes.
IPL5 has produced more last-over finishes than any of its previous editions and is widely accepted as the most exciting of the five seasons played so far. If close games are the sole yardstick of judging an interesting match, IPL 2012 wins the comparisons hands down. But the Target Rating Points (TRP) is to be considered, IPL5 has garnered the least TRP as compared to any of its previous edition.
But the point is not which edition of the IPL has been the most exciting. The argument made is just to point out that close finishes doesn’t always guarantee exciting cricket. For the same audience that switched to T20 terming Test cricket boring have ditched the fifth edition of the extravagant tournament.
Two months of IPL 5 might have more last-over finishes than what Test cricket will have in the next two years. But how many stories would be told? How many memories would be created? How many matches would be remembered?
Test cricket is about essence and spirit. Numbers would never do justice to its beauty or the lair of its designer’s persona. Stats across eras shall always be stats. They would never have a clear conclusion. Every good effort needs to be rewarded. And that is exactly what Test cricket does. A good shot is a good shot, irrespective of its result. A good ball is a good ball, even if it is edged for a four. Twenty20 works a bit on Napoleon’s ideology: “He is good, but is he lucky?”
It is a simple thing, what does one expect every morning from a cricket match between two almost evenly-matched teams? A T20 match turns upside down every third over, but do they bring miracles. In Test cricket, every morning, every session a plan is in place to be executed. Many a battles are won and lost within a war. At its best, every ounce of determination, grit and endurance is on display. At times, every delivery well left commands more respect than the biggest six hit or the best bowler plundered. A well-eked out draw stays in memory more often than last ball finishes.
The thought comes from a simple fact that I’ve grown up reading about cricket stories from various eras. But I just wonder whether the slam-bang T20 games that I see would create similar stories worth telling. Or would it be just another record in the books of cricket?
Twenty20 has left experts with nothing to say and fans with nothing to expect. No amount of controversy and close finishes have created the kind of tension and drama that some of the Test matches I’ve been witness to or the history books that have made them alive to me.
One of my distant memories of cricket stories told comes from an old uncle who had just moved to Mumbai from Chennai. He had served as a First-Class umpire. The spirited old man from Chennai, who had witnessed a Test match in 1964 between India and England as a spectator, recounted of how the English batsmen would step out of the crease every ball to drive the flighted delivery, only to check their shot at the last moment. Nadkarni would bowl tirelessly at the same spot to create a record 21 consecutive maiden overs. Even a ball bowled at the same spot 126 consecutive times created a memory that could be retold almost half a century later. I wonder which is the T20 moment that can be retold even a decade later?
The argument is not to bash Twenty20 cricket. The shorter version has its own mass appeal and commercial importance. Both may be mutually exclusive, but need the other for its own survival. But it is high time to realise Test cricket has its own sacred position and even if a little devalued amongst the lovers of faster sports, will be loved by the connoisseurs of the game. It is time to separate the crowd for the two and not be desperate to draw either into each other. It is time to realise that Test cricket, by design, was always for a specific section of people and so is T20.
Expecting a cricket lover to be mesmerised by loud music, glamour, rash shots and over the board showbiz drama would be plain stupid. Furthermore, it is embarrassing to watch some of the cricket experts indulging in rubbish ghost talks.
If Twenty20 can’t create a cricketing drama like Test matches do, the question would soon change from, ‘Would Test cricket survive?’ to ‘Would T20 survive?’
So, before it’s too late, cricket administrators should realise that no amount of tamasha can cover-up for bad display of the beautiful art called cricket!
(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee! )