It was back in the day when we all had Motorola mobiles, when IBM just launched the IBM 5155 portable personal computer, when most cars were square and Toyota invested in twincam powerplants.
You can see where I am going with this, it was a long time ago. There were no cheerleaders or Twenty20 matches, Test venues still had little white picket fences on the boundaries and the stiff upper lip crowds at Lord’s were still in fashion.
A mate of mine invited me to join his company’s social cricket league, and me being game for anything I accepted the invitation with glee.
I was going to play a game I knew little to nothing of. Jan Spies, an iconic Afrikaner storyteller since the 60s, had a very funny story about a farm boy who went to his first cricket game and didn’t understand why the gentlemen with their ‘Doctor-type coats’ went onto the field if there were no injuries.
To him it was sacrilege to plant three thin little poles on opposite ends of the most beautiful piece of lawn he has ever seen.
What troubled this boy even more was the fact that a gentleman (described very loosely as a gentleman) would be throwing red round rocks at a guy on the opposite side armed with only a piece of willow.
I digress, upon arriving at my first cricket match in a borrowed pair of whites, the only white pair of sneakers I owned (they were the same ones I played squash with) the captain approached me to ask what type of delivery I bowled.
Really not to sure what to say, I blurted out something along the lines of “slow left arm.”
Not long into the innings (we bowled first) he chucks me the ball and tells me to do my thing, fortunately he left the field placing to himself as that would surely have given away the fact that I have never played a game of cricket in my life.
My first delivery was a no ball. “What?” I asked ignorantly as I had no idea what it meant.
“You are not supposed to step over the line,” was the response.
As I made the next few deliveries I realised that I did indeed get the tiniest bit of spin (the ball spun to the offside, but didn’t know what that was called in cricketing terms) and finished my five overs with figures of 2 for 14.
I became a regular in the team, whether it was because they were always short of players, or whether my bowling was good enough to stake my claim was never ascertained (I choose to believe it was my natural talent).
I went on to play social cricket for quite a number of years and really enjoyed my time in the field.
That is how I came to love the game of cricket.
You may be wondering why I am telling you this story, but there really is a lesson in it.
There have been a good number of articles debating the merits of these over-the-top Twenty20 competitions and their superficial marketing ploys.
I question the use of “Sponsor name moment” or “Sponsor name wicket” by commentators and all the other superficial additives cricket associations use to make Twenty20 cricket the instant gratification tablet so sorely needed in this superficial day and age.
I question whether anyone that watches Twenty20 and then five-day Test cricket would find much relation, apart from the bat, ball and wickets used in the two formats.
I question whether there is any benefit in making people believe the ‘ride your luck’ innings that often win these games provide the casual observer with a realistic impression of what it takes to face the best bowlers on a bowling friendly wicket and eking out a century in a day?
If you want people to love cricket, in fact if you want people to love Test cricket, then let them play the game. Get communities involved in social leagues, get young kids to play cricket.
Most people I know watch sport they understand. The only way they get to understand a game where you can play for five days and still not have a result is by having them exposed to the sport in their communities.
Forget about the flash and bang of Twenty20. Sure it makes for a great night out and provides excitement and a result for those requiring a result rather than a process, but it isn’t going to bring millions of new fans to Test cricket.