Night Test matches just not cricket
How horrible a thought that Test cricket may “in the next two years” be played at night. If that’s what the powers that be, as an ICC chief has alluded to, are planning in the future, then all die-hard fans of Test cricket may just as well kiss this form of the game goodbye.
An irresistible greed, entrenched in the financial exploits the shorter smash and grab versions of the game brings to the coffers of the powers-that-be, unions, players, etc seems to have clouded those who administer the game’s way of thinking.
Yes, international cricket needs the money to keep the game viable in the short, medium and long-term. If they can’t pack in the crowds for the Test version these days, then the authorities may in the long run battle to find the sponsors and the television moguls begging for a piece of the action.
Great as the Twenty20 version has been in terms of spectacle and introducing a new market to the game, there are those among us who still yearn for cricket’s flagship, the five-day Test, that is clearly the overall yardstick of a cricketer’s skill and abilities. That is what the game of cricket was built on, that is where it has had its humble beginnings.
That, of course, changed when Kerry Packer, with his own designs on spreading the game and making an extra mint, changed things a bit. As spectacular as what it seemed at that time in the mid 70s, I could still, if I had the means to (in SA I could only keep abreast of world cricket via the newspaper at that time) watch Boycott batting for five days! Rather than watch players in pyjamas scuttling around the field trying to catch a coloured ball.
Today, just as the interest in the 50-over ODI format, borne out of the Packer era, is a bit on the wane as far as the crowds are concerned, and the five-day Test the subject of attention due to dwindling “spectator interest” apparently, one has to lay the blame for the situation at the door of the lackadaisical approach to market the game. If the ICC thinks it’s got a problem with Test cricket, the ODI version is going to present an even bigger problem, if that’s not already the case. Very soon it will only be in a position to market the viability of the Twenty20 version.
Many of us, who despise the fact that there is even a question mark hanging over the future of Test cricket, (or changing to day-night version) have to accept that this present generation do not attach sentiment to the Test version and its history. Mention the three W’s to some youngsters- they’d ask you if that is a chain of supermarkets somewhere, Trueman, would be a clothing store, Haynes and Greenidge a grocer and so on.
Well, we don’t expect this generation to know what the cricketers of this ilk represent to many of us (I am 45, didn’t see much of them, but have read and studied them), but it will be sad if Test cricket becomes lost even on this generation, who are what we call an “instant society” … give it to me and give it to me NOW seems the refrain! In other words, fast and furious and that’s what Twenty20 is to the core market, the new entrants/spectators to the game of cricket, give it to them short, sweet, and simple.
But that’s a lame excuse to use for wanting to change the face of Test cricket by playing games at night. Bigger crowds they say. Let’s wait and see.
Why have the powers to be left Test cricket to get into this situation, and, it’s poor cousin the ODI, drift into the background, while the new kid on the block Twenty20 prospers from a marketing viewpoint?
Pack in the Test cricket crowds, by dropping prices substantially; if there’s any indication prior to a Test match that ticket sales will be low and that the game will only be watched by a man and his dog – bring in the schoolboys and schoolgirls for free .. yes for free .. pack ‘em in, even if the turnstiles take a knock .. but pack ‘em in … please to preserve the version of the game that’s stood the test of time.
We owe it to the Ws, the Graces, Huntes, Sobers’, Fredericks, Marshalls’ Boycotts, Willis’, Lara’, Adcocks, Truemans, Titmus’, Lindwalls, Jenners’, Pollocks, Cheethams, Benauds, Boycotts among others – and of course, the Bradmans of this world. What would he make of all these shenanigans? For heavens sake, I plead, don’t mess this up, just save the game of Test cricket!