Any concerns about Steve Smith’s form, fitness and ability to adapt to a new batting role have evaporated over the past three weeks as the former Australian skipper has made a sparkling return to high level cricket.
I write overlooking the University main oval. Despite being washed in sunlight, the undeniable scent of deep heat and dried mud hints at the fact that the football season has begun.
Our flannelled friends have yielded, imposing sets of goal posts at either end of the picturesque ground act as confirmation.
Indeed a sorry sight for a cricket tragic, football season means no local cricket to watch or play, but there is still plenty to write about. Especially when the looming Champions’ Trophy, and ongoing Indian Premier League lead to favourable discourse with regards to the shorter, and shortest form of the game.
Favourable, that is, ahead of Test match cricket. Some seem to think that those amongst us who espouse the values and tradition long form of the game, are behind the times. Pushing the proverbial uphill, they think it’s high time we concede to the trends of the money-making behemoth that is franchise cricket.
There are some valid points, (one would hope that such an argument would not have gained as much traction without them, though there is no guarantee) and for the most part, it lies in the attraction of the game.
In an era where we are exposed to never ending stimuli from a broad range of sources, the premise is that cricket supporters, young people in particular, do not have the wherewithal to sit through a day, let alone five, of test match cricket.
To maintain engagement, they suggest, we need music, bright lights, constant crowd engagement and big hits- because that provides instant gratification and entertainment, where a gruelling five-day contest that can result in a draw just isn’t quite what we are after.
Au contraire! As an 18 year old with a passion for the game, I would fall in the bracket of those whose continued attraction to cricket is thought to rely most heavily on a crash and bash for three hours of entertainment.
Is this correct? Not even slightly. My favourite match of the 2016-17 Australian summer was the Gabba Test between Australia and Pakistan. It demonstrated the real beauty of a format that allows for a true fight back and an exhibition of will-power, that left the visitors so tantalisingly close.
This match was not an anomaly in terms of being a gripping and enthralling Test. Amazing Adelaide, the 2005 Ashes series in England, and, in more recent memory, the hotly contested Border Gavaskar series in India, the list goes on…
No doubt T20 cricket is a viable avenue to attract a new demographic of cricket supporters, and to make a great deal of money. It is not, however the way to foster a deep love of the game amongst a cricketing public.
Since its inception, I have attended a grand total of two Big Bash games. On the other hand, since the time I stood at a height equal to that of the stumps I would stubbornly defend on a Saturday, I have not missed a Boxing Day Test.
The short formats are crucial to the success of cricket in the long run, and I am not against change. I love day-night Test matches), but I would implore the purists among you to contest the calls for franchise cricket to become our focus. This 18 year old would be devastated were that the case.