The opinion of The Guardian on Test cricket: there are doubts about the ultimate form of the game.
According to George Bernard Shaw, the English people are not particularly spiritual, so they created the game of cricket as a way to understand eternity. Shaw was specifically referring to Test cricket, not the modern shorter versions of the game. Some have even described cricket as a religious ritual, where the focus is on the process rather than the actual sport. English novelist Paul West once tried to explain cricket to Americans by comparing it to a leisurely summer outing like a picnic or garden party. While this may not be entirely accurate, Test cricket does have moments of intense drama, often heightened by the slow pace of the game. However, there are also key rituals involved, such as lunch and tea breaks, and some may criticize the sport for being suspended due to light rain. Groucho Marx was one such critic, famously stating that after spending a day at Lord’s with two journalists in 1954, he found cricket to be an excellent cure for insomnia.
At the moment, England and India are in the middle of an exciting five-game Test series. In the first Test, England emerged victorious thanks to an impressive showing by Tom Hartley, a new left-handed spinner who took nine wickets in his debut. The second Test, which ended earlier today, saw England’s trio of young spinners perform well, but India’s rising star Yashasvi Jaiswal’s double-century and Jasprit Bumrah’s unstoppable bowling led to the home team tying the series.
This advertisement is ideal for promoting Test cricket, which is often dismissed as outdated and only appealing to fans from a long time ago. However, the message may not reach a wider audience as the games are being aired on a subscription channel with limited viewership, and radio rights are owned by TalkSport. Fans can still follow the matches online, but it becomes more focused on statistics rather than the actual experience. Seeing the game in action is crucial. It would be beneficial if at least one England Test match per year was shown on free-to-air channels.
There is a contradictory situation. Test cricket is widely acknowledged as the most prestigious version of the game, the ultimate measure of skill, yet its existence is constantly questioned. South Africa has sent a below-average team to compete in a Test series in New Zealand because their top players are participating in domestic Twenty20 “franchise” cricket. The early signs suggest a completely lopsided match.
The series between India and England, which consisted of five matches, is a rare occurrence. In contrast, the recent two-match series between Australia and West Indies, which introduced a new star in fast bowler Shamar Joseph, is a better representation of the current trend of favoring shorter series over longer ones. This preference for shorter series reduces the focus on a cohesive storyline. A one-off Test between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan was also recently played, but it did not attract much attention except from those who closely follow the sport.
In a world where shorter forms of entertainment are favored, Test cricket is seen as a luxury and is met with suspicion, especially by TV executives. Americans, who abandoned cricket for baseball after the civil war, are particularly resistant to its appeal. Will Test cricket be able to survive? Traditionalists are hopeful. In Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, dyspeptic cricket enthusiast Charters exclaims in disbelief, “You can’t be in England and not know the Test score!” However, the current lack of interest and neglect towards the game would surely cause Charters to be in a constant state of frustration. As for his thoughts on baseball…