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Celebrate the incredible victory of the West Indies in Australia's Test match, but also express frustration about the circumstances | Commentary by Jonathan Liew
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Celebrate the incredible victory of the West Indies in Australia’s Test match, but also express frustration about the circumstances | Commentary by Jonathan Liew

For me, Test cricket will always be the pinnacle. For me, Test cricket will always be the pinnacle. Test cricket – for me – will always be the pinnacle. The more you say it, the truer it becomes. That’s how it works. Try it for yourself. For me, Test cricket will always be the pinnacle. For me, Windows XP will always be the operating system of choice. For me, the territorial status of Ukraine will always be “uninvaded”. For me, the mullet will always be in fashion.

This is a secure place where you can freely express your desires without fear. It may be a shrinking and under attack, but it still remains a safe haven. Here, you can share your thoughts with the conch and only receive positive responses, reassurances, and wise acknowledgments in return. Your idealistic perspective will never be challenged by reality. You will not be questioned or required to explain how you plan to sustain the dominance of a prolonged and financially limited sports format against a powerful and profitable alternative. If pressed for specifics, you can simply state that “the governing bodies of the sport must take action”, and once again, no one will seriously oppose your viewpoint.

The highest level of cricket will always be Test matches. This sentiment is often repeated to the extent that it loses its true meaning and becomes a superficial call to action. A prime example of this is the statement from Cricket South Africa claiming that they hold the Test format in the highest regard, despite sending a less experienced team to play in New Zealand. However, this idea is most evident after an exciting Test match, like the recent ones in Brisbane and Hyderabad.

Occasionally, these days resurface: days of redemption and optimism, days of suspense and unimaginable excitement, days when fate aligns and for a brief shining moment, everything seems to be alright. The incredible Shamar Joseph proclaims after his victorious performance of seven wickets despite injury against Australia that no matter the salary, he will always make himself available to represent West Indies, bringing a sense of relief to everyone. Even the vanquished captain Pat Cummins, in a display of generosity bordering on blasphemy, admits “as a fan of Test match cricket, a part of me was pleased.”

These moments must be treasured, cherished, and celebrated. The West Indies’ triumph of an eight-run victory over Australia was their first on Australian soil since 1997. It was a display of skill, character, and composure under pressure, despite their lack of experience in this format. However, there should also be a sense of anger and dismay that an achievement like this was deemed unlikely. This team had to overcome numerous challenges, including the absence of key players, a series of rushed two-Test matches, and a financial model that ultimately puts them at the mercy of the larger franchise leagues and their governing boards.

Tom Hartley of England carries a stump after beating India in Hyderabad.View image in fullscreen

It may be difficult for Kraigg Brathwaite and his team to maintain their current momentum in the near future, as their next series is not until July at Lord’s and it is the only three-match series in the current World Championship cycle. During this wait, many of their top players will be focused on playing short-format cricket, such as Joseph who will be playing for Dubai Capitals in the International League T20 before joining Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League. This requires different skills and training, and they will be in different dressing rooms. However, Test cricket is still considered the highest level, so these changes are not expected to have a significant impact.

The market economy of cricket is clearly at play here, a fact often disregarded by many experts and observers who tend to belittle or patronize teams like the West Indies. Their missing players are often labeled as hired guns without the pride or passion to represent their nation. The players who do compete are dismissed as inadequate fill-ins who do not deserve to wear the team’s shirt. During the West Indies’ last visit to Australia, former Test player Rob Quiney claimed they were not putting in enough effort and seemed too relaxed. To be fair, Quiney himself appeared to be trying extremely hard when he only managed to score nine runs in three innings.

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When they are victorious, however, they are praised with clichés and congratulatory gestures: their achievement is portrayed as a victory for the sport as a whole, rather than for one team against the inherent injustices within that sport. It makes one wonder if this is because those in power of cricket are content to view these instances as isolated moments of positivity, serving as a temporary distraction from the norm. It is certainly more convenient than, for example, questioning Cricket Australia’s decision to not play a Test match in the Caribbean since 2015.

The neglect of administrative duties for many years can only be reversed over a considerable period of time. Building an inclusive economy will necessitate dedicated efforts from both supporters and media, coordinated pressure on national governing bodies and team owners, and prioritizing support for smaller cricket-playing countries instead of criticizing them every time they face a heavy defeat. On the other hand, we could continue convincing ourselves that Test cricket is the ultimate form of the sport. While Test cricket will always hold a special place, constantly repeating this statement can make it sound increasingly illogical over time.

Source: theguardian.com