As we travel further and further into a world without live sports and the resource of highlight videos and game replays runs thinner and thinner I recently turned to the world of sporting documentaries to get my fix. One in particular with which somehow I have never crossed paths is a film called “Death of a Gentleman”. A film that sets out to highlight all that is great about Test Cricket but ultimately becomes a stark portrayal of the games frailty in the modern world. As life without sport goes on part of me wonders whether or not this time will be used by the powers that be to reflect on what they want the sporting landscape to look like once this is all over. With Test Cricket seemingly always perched on a cliff edge with the winds of chronic underfunding and shortening attention spans ever pushing it further over the edge, will the defenders of the game be called upon once again in the post corona world. I for one am one of the defenders ready to take my place and I thought now is as good a time as any to explain why.
Growing up in the USA my first love was baseball a sport alien to many in the UK but one who’s place in American society is not dissimilar to the way cricket exists this side of the Atlantic. A slow sport made up of individual battles watched by a crowd of people with one eye on the game and the other eagerly trying to pick out their mate who was sent to get the beers almost 20 minutes ago and has yet to return. All waiting for the sound of bat on ball which brings the attention squarely back to the action. Once I moved to England it seemed natural for me to try my hand at cricket. All it took was a few small adjustments to the position of my bat and a harsh introduction to the finality of lost wicket. Rather than the safety of strikes one and two, a single miss of a straight ball would result in my turn to bat ending abruptly. What do you mean I’m out for good? I think I prefer bowling.
Cricket was the only sport I really played throughout school and watching it became just as important. 10, 15 years ago it was never in question what the most important form of cricket was. The test match was king and everything else was playing for second. Some of my greatest sporting memories can are watching the ashes back in 2005. Flintoff bringing hell with bat and ball, a Kasprowicz glove bringing Edgbaston to its feet. It was some of the greatest sporting theatre I had ever witnessed. Never once did it feel too long or too slow or outdated in any way.
In life as in sport for something to feel too long you need something shorter. To feel to too slow you need something faster. Too outdated? Only if there is something newer. The answer to all these was called Twenty20. The 20 over version of the game has been around for a while now but when the big money leagues such as the IPL took off its standing in the global game rose dramatically. It was the DJ booths to Lord’s muted applause, the neon uniforms to the test match whites. It was fast and loud and brash and exciting. But was it really? Six after six launched into the crowd but the game itself felt hollow. It has always been missing something. It lacks intrigue it lacks the one on one battles that grow over time that only the long format of the game can provide. As the five day bowler refines his options carefully planning each and every delivery his Twenty20 counterpart simply prays to see the next ball bouncing before it leaves the ground thus saving his team a valuable two runs. Give me the hour after tea as the sun starts to set and the batsmen fight to survive until close of play over 20 minutes of over-pitched yorkers being heaved to the heavens any day.
Nothing produces drama like a test match. Last years ashes showed that better than ever. So for now its re-runs on sky but soon sport will be back and people will flood to the pubs to watch the rugby and pack stadiums to watch the football but I for one can’t wait for more test cricket.