May 18, 2011

The last four overs

Andrew Hughes
Shane Warne looks helpless as his team get battered, Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2011, Jaipur, May 11, 2011
”This is what I sacrificed 77 pizza slices over the last eight months for?”  © AFP
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Sunday, 15th May Former player Akram Raza has been arrested, allegedly for trying to place a bet. If it’s true, then well done the Pakistani police. I only wish the British constabulary offered a similar service. How useful it would be if, as you approached the counter, clutching a hastily scrawled slip, you felt a heavy hand on your shoulder and heard a voice deep with authority and wisdom:

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, is it sir.”

Quite right, constable, don’t know what I was thinking. Worcestershire to win the County Championship? Forgive me, I’ve not been well lately.

Betting is a drug; it distorts your experience. For example, the normally tolerable inanities of the commentary booth become unbearable when the team you backed at 10-11 is floundering, but on the other hand, as the chap you picked to top-score goes to his century with a towering six, the voices of Danny Morrison and Pommie Mbangwa are as a chorus of angels.

Why do we humans do it? Because we want action. Not being involved ourselves, we don’t just want to be spectators. We want our pulse to be racing. We want to feel like punching the air or kicking the turf too. Betting packs the terror and elation of the human condition into one short space of time, a period of living with the illusion that your senses are heightened. Although they say the same about heroin.

If the charges are true, it raises serious doubts about Akram’s judgement. It is not just that he was allegedly trying to place a bet; I heard he was allegedly trying to place a bet on the Delhi Daredevils. Perhaps he was arrested for his own well-being.

Monday, 16th May This isn’t how it was supposed to end. It looks like Shane is bowing out amid a tawdry farrago of fines, fake tans, skin creams, celebrity dating, furious tweets and absurd defeats. Suitably, the last nail in Warne’s career coffin was delivered by an Englishman, Nayan Doshi, who brought a touch of Tavare to the hit and giggle: 13 balls, 0 runs. His breathtaking subversion of the format was almost sexy.

So Friday it is. I’ll be honest, I’ve started to dip in and out of the IPL. I like it, but I like trifle too, and six weeks of trifle leaves you feeling queasy. But I’ll be tuning in on Friday. It’s the last time we’ll see that menacing amble to the wicket, the beauty of that fizzing legbreak and those well-rehearsed expressions of disbelief. There are only four overs, 24 balls, of Warne to go. I’ll be watching every single one.

Tuesday, 17th May The chaps still don’t get it. Here’s Scyld Berry in the Telegraph, contrasting the popularity of the IPL with the near-empty stands during the first Test in Guyana:

“Even if it is not what it was, at least the IPL can claim to be not half as desultory as much of Test cricket has been made by its administrators.”

Now I enjoy beating up on administrators as much as the next man with a blog to write and nothing to put in it. But I’m not sure how they can take the blame for the dwindling interest in Test matches, unless their error was to allow more exciting and popular cricket to exist, thus diverting the wayward spectator from the true faith? That appeared to be Peter Roebuck’s argument last week.

But what if the problem isn’t the IPL, the administrators, television, Kerry Packer or the BCCI? What if the problem is Test cricket itself? Before we carry on with our efforts to resuscitate the format, perhaps we ought to ask the big question: Could it be that the era of the week-long cricket match is nearing its end? And more importantly, if nobody wants to watch it, then what, exactly, is the point?

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by k on (June 18, 2011, 20:10 GMT)

The empty stands in test cricket are a reflection of the increased opportunity cost of time of people, not of any failing of test cricket.

The fact that the rest day during a test match is removed is a reflection of how popular it is for the TV audience, which is really the ideal audience for a test match.

Posted by Satrajit on (May 26, 2011, 6:10 GMT)

People who think Test Cricket is not up to it should really not be visiting this website or posting comments in it! WTH?! Its not only oldies who think tests are the real deal. I, being a 22 year old, also believe in the same. Don't think many people have been following Tests over the last few years. With the advent of T20's, Tests have been extremely interesting! There have been some very close encounters and this is the best format of the game to test out the real qualities of a player! That is why flashy, short term players like Gayle and Malinga have decided not to embarass themselves by quitting Tests! Players will be GREAT if and only if they perform at Test Level consistently! Kieron Pollard will never ever b a Brian Lara!!

Posted by Dijo on (May 19, 2011, 3:08 GMT)

I want to watch it. More importantly test matches are far from dead. True, nobody has the time to travel to the ground but people do watch it on television.

Posted by Kalyan on (May 18, 2011, 16:32 GMT)

I disagree when people ask what is the point of test cricket. Economic scarcity drives people to work harder and take less leisure and they are not able to spare the week to watch tests as they could before. This does not mean people do not follow tests. On cricinfo, on mobile devices, on radio, with widgets and SMS and sneak peeks wherever a TV set maybe available. Tests are played because it is a test of cricketers and because unlike any other sport, these sportstars work 9-5 five days a week just like the rest of us. Perhaps that is the point.

Posted by bigwonder on (May 18, 2011, 14:45 GMT)

I loved the part "It looks like Shane is bowing out amid a tawdry farrago of fines, fake tans, skin creams, celebrity dating, furious tweets and absurd defeats." Test cricket is getting less interest - even though the oldies keep insisting that it is more interesting. The world is changing and so are the viewers interest. Everything is fast-paced and most of the world does not want to wait for 5 days to find out that there will be no result for the Test game. Also, lets have a look at the name of the game, "Test Cricket", I guess it must have been started as a "testing" game to see if people would like to spend their spare time watching the same game go for 5 days.

Posted by Bill on (May 18, 2011, 14:34 GMT)

As a late cricket fan,circa 4 years,but with a knowledge of the game.that is equal to a good twenty years,I have to say,that Test cricket is pure tradition.For that reason.it exists today,and it will survive forever. There must be no doubt,that Odis and T20 ,are contemporary,and fast moving formats,with lots of fast and no so fast,sometimes,activity, clever and not so clever attitude.A young powerfull but crazy horse,that roars.But that's not reason,good enough,to kill your old warhorse,workhorse,take your pick. By the way,imagine a soccer game that will last five days.Even between Manchester Utd and Barcelona.With all the hiccups that can take place in a Test match...Picture a view of the stands...It will be no different than Guyana.

Posted by Kunal on (May 18, 2011, 9:57 GMT)

The point of Test Cricket is to have a tussle which people can watch over short intervals. A Test of character, skill, technique and temperament does not need fans watching 90 overs on all five days. A few good sessions per spectator should bring in some money.

It's like an epic over five days, fans can keep checking the score and live match for short intervals and keep the interest. As far as the sporting reason is concerned, there is still no doubt about its importance.

Hilarious line: "you picked to top-score goes to his century with a towering six, the voices of Danny Morrison and Pommie Mbangwa are as a chorus of angels."

Posted by EZ on (May 18, 2011, 7:58 GMT)

nice article. But about that test match, its been long time since I watch such an exciting test match. The purpose of test match is to groom players. You can't expect them to groom in t20s

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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