As I’m currently writing an article about test cricket’s future for a different forum (I’ll let you know when it’s live), this guest submission from Liam Hope really struck a chord. As a relative newcomer to cricket, Liam has an interesting take on things which reaffirms what I’m sure many of us already think: that test cricket is still a brilliant game with much to offer. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing that test cricket is fast becoming an anachronism. It’s good to know that it’s still attracting new fans. Anyway, over to you Liam …
Strangely enough my love for cricket- though developed later in life – stemmed from a brief stint on Don Bradman Cricket on the PlayStation 4. I expected to hit immediate boundaries and take a haul of wickets. Unfortunately however, my expectations did not match my ability, and my gaming career produced an array of ducks and edges. My family didn’t take kindly to my bellowing curses which echoed throughout the conservatory.
But despite my frustrations, I quickly became engrossed by the complexities of the game and the patience needed to succeed. My infatuation for cricket has since rocketed and I ended up watching every test match this year. I even made an enjoyable first trip to Lord’s – although my batting average on Don Bradman Cricket remained in the doldrums.
Arguably, my impatience and desire for instant gratification on the PS4 originates from the fast-paced society that we live in, which coincides with the growth of the internet age and the technological revolution. Instant messaging, internet search engines, as well as a host of other functions that can be accessed within milliseconds have naturally affected our psychological approach to everyday life. As a result, both the internet and the growth of modern devices have fuelled society’s desire to achieve fulfilment within an instant. Patience, it seems, has become a thing of the past.
This breeding ground for instant gratification is somewhat embodied by the increasing popularity of T20 – much to the disgruntlement of those passionate about test cricket. In a format where big-hitters thrive, T20 has sold-out grounds and delivered a plethora of sixes and fours. Whilst Scyld Berry has argued that this crowd-pleasing format is vital for the game’s future, it’s disheartening to see the traditional long-format slowly decline. One can assume that Mike Atherton’s defensive style, which once made “batting look like trench warfare”, would no longer appeal in an age where fans yearn for explosive slogs.
Of course, I don’t deny tuning in to the T20 World Cup, and I undoubtedly enjoyed Moeen Ali’s flurry of boundaries during the Edgbaston and Oval tests. In addition, I appreciate that the short format has provided a number of positives: it puts bums on seats and attracts youngsters to the sport. However, despite this I’m concerned about test cricket’s future and I wonder how it can be saved. Already, there have been calls to reduce five-day test matches to four; a change which will shortly be debated by the International Cricket Council.
Moving forward, it is clear that the longer format must have more appeal to wider audiences. Yet, at the same time, perhaps the long-format’s popularity decline has been overstated? For example, the first Pakistan test broke attendance records at Lords. Even Martin Keown fancied a bit of the action as he waited patiently in the queue behind me.
The recent series against Pakistan was a good advert for test cricket. It was an entertaining contest, closely fought, with plenty of highlights and intriguing subplots. Therefore, although test cricket might be a little slow for some, it remains an engrossing sport full of possibilities. An exhilarating ending, or at the very least a gripping narrative, is never more than a wicket or run away.