August 28, 2012

Tests

Quaint bookstore v glitzy chain

Suhas Cadambi
Super Kings' cheerleaders celebrate the team's victory, Delhi Daredevils v Chennai Super Kings, 2nd eliminator, IPL 2012, Chennai, May 25, 2012
It is difficult to imagine a T20 game without loud music and cheerleaders but, at its core, it's still bat versus ball  © AFP
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There exists a certain type of book-lover who is particular not just about what he reads, but also where he buys it from. It is mostly people of this ilk who are responsible for keeping the cult of the 'friendly neighbourhood bookstore' going strong. Clearly, there is a certain romance associated with the local bookshop struggling to compete with the rise of a big chain counterpart; director Nora Ephron even made a well-known romantic comedy on the theme.

One might wonder why a reader should prefer the smaller, minimalist store to the giant, glitzy establishment when the latter offers essentially the same product, at superior levels of convenience. The reader would probably offer a multitude of reasons: the sense of personal belonging which you simply don't get with the larger stores, the presence of knowledgeable owners or astute staff who wouldn't need a computer to tell you if a certain book were available, the likelihood of finding a rare title, or simply the stimulating environment. This is a real-world parallel I hit upon while thinking about a seeming contradiction in cricket: the attitudes of die-hard Test cricket fans, including myself, towards the various formats of the game.

I may profess not to like it, but every year I end up watching a fair bit of the IPL anyway. I'm often asked why this is so; the best explanation I can provide is that an IPL game, at its core, is still bat versus ball, and any cricket on television is better than none at all. Yet, my feelings about the Twenty20 format persist. Perhaps it's not the league itself, but its knock-on effects - the proliferation of domestic T20 leagues, player availability, a badly compromised schedule - that leave some of us cold.

Whatever it may be, like many others I am the proverbial passenger on the train who simply has to catch a glimpse of the game being played outside, driven by that compulsive need to know what will happen next ball. Similar to this is how the reader who swears by the smaller store can still be found leafing through a book in the bigger one; the effect of a flame on a moth.

The older ways, however, continue to inspire certain affection. Every major Indian city now boasts an IPL franchise, but the Test match still has more of a community feel to it than the league. When we were discussing the schedule for New Zealand's upcoming tour of India (Tests in Hyderabad and Bangalore), a Hyderabad-based friend insisted he would rather get tickets for the Bangalore game because "nothing beats the experience of watching a Test in your hometown". People of Bangalore feel equally strongly about the quaint Premier Bookstore, which shut down three years ago, to the extent that a documentary film has been made on the owner.

Further similarities can be uncovered. The big-chain bookstore is usually found in a bustling shopping mall, and is seemingly incomplete without additions such as a DVD section and a coffee shop. By the same token, it is difficult to imagine a T20 game without floodlights, an excitable crowd, loud music, and cheerleaders. It sure hits home with the larger public, even if the purist finds this all a bit repulsive.

It is widely predicted that the older forms of cricket and bookselling will go the way of the dinosaur. But, like their book-loving counterparts, fans of the five-day format are a determined lot. Today, any reasonably absorbing Test match, never mind the attendance figures, is a reason (or is it excuse?) for renewed optimism. The cause may be a losing one, but it is still worth fighting for.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Kaustubh on (August 31, 2012, 9:17 GMT)

Poor analogy. Its like a classic literature book thats been read since decades compared to a piece of schmaltzy fiction that fades away in less than a year. Say, its like To Kill a Mockingbird compared to Twilight. And rather watch IPL on TV just because its 'bat v ball', can't i watch good old classic videos on Youtube? Its like saying i'd buy junk-iest food from nearest fast-food chain just because i m hungry rather than bothering to travel even a mile to have proper meal! Does anyone remember a single IPL game of last 5 years? Give me test cricket anyday!

Posted by Don Corleone on (August 31, 2012, 3:39 GMT)

I always think of the 3 forms of cricket in musical terms:-

Test/Classical: historic, graceful,lengthy, true test of the craft.

ODIs/progressive rock: colourful, revolutionary, explosive in parts, long solos.

T20/pop: short, energetic, flashy, element of gimmickry.

Posted by Kaustubh on (August 30, 2012, 17:35 GMT)

Poor analogy. Its a classic literature book thats been read since centuries compared to a piece of schmaltzy fiction that fades away in less than a year. Say To Kill a Mockingbird compared to Twilight. And rather watch IPL on TV just because its 'bat v ball', can't i watch good old classic videos on Youtube? Its like saying i'd eat junk-iest food just because i m hungry rather than cook something.

Posted by imran on (August 30, 2012, 12:01 GMT)

"...an IPL game, at its core, is still bat versus ball, and any cricket on television is better than none at all." You have captured my feelings with the element of a bull's eye.. As much as I hate IPL; yes, the word is 'hate; I still can't stop watching it, or BPL,or BBL, or SLPL, or Friends T20 for that matter..

May be down the years, they will shut the shops of Test matches just as they have closing the neighbouring bookstore..

Posted by Krishna Garg on (August 30, 2012, 8:08 GMT)

In today's world whether the test cricket will survive or not will be decided by the market forces. If the sponsorship is not forthcoming it is ordained it will slowly wither away. However, that is not going to happen tomorrow and who knows the sponsorship may not only continue but catch up once again. So, let us keep enjoying it while it is there. I wish more people came to the ground to watch it as in England.

Posted by Sohan on (August 29, 2012, 13:32 GMT)

Well said, Suhas!

Posted by Vidya on (August 29, 2012, 11:21 GMT)

Interesting comparisons..who would have thought..book store and cricket. A place for everything and everything in its place. I think I get it!

Posted by Santosh Biradar on (August 29, 2012, 5:10 GMT)

good analogy with the book-lovers.. I still dont think it is a losing cause.. test cricket lovers are plenty in number and we will continue to love test cricket.. players (like Eoin Morgan lately) giving more importance to their test prospects than the IPL contracts is a good sign..

Posted by S.Lokanathan on (August 29, 2012, 4:15 GMT)

Lovely Suhas! There used to be a story about the young lady escorted to a major league baseball game in US - her friend, poor lad, had waited so long for her that when they came it was the 9th inning - but the score was tied nil-nil and she said "Oh, we have not missed anything!" Sadly, that is how people perhaps look at test cricket now! SL

Posted by Ajai mohan on (August 28, 2012, 18:47 GMT)

Sir, you couldn't have put this in a better way. Thank you for this article:)

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