November 17, 2012

Is this the preservation of Test cricket?

Andrew Hughes
Andy Flower chats to his players the day after their collapse against India, Colombo, September 24, 2012
"We've got to be careful boys. The BCCI has said it will levy a viewer-disappointment fee if our batting collapses"  © Getty Images
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Aside from growing their hair and absent-mindedly walking into lampposts, philosophers spend their time wrestling, on our behalf, with the Big Questions. What is existence? What is the nature of truth? What's love got to do with it? How does Donald Trump get his hair to do that?

So here's another one for our chin-stroking friends to wrap their syllogisms around whilst sipping Lady Grey in the refectory of the Faculty of Important Thinking. If a Test match is played but nobody sees it, has it really happened?

At a time when Test cricket is going the way of other quaint 19th-century pastimes like duck-dangling, unicorn-prodding and cockerel-mockery, those who find themselves temporarily at the controls of the Test Match Spaceship seem bent on steering it into the black hole where all irrelevant pastimes go to die.

Perhaps they think that by rocketing their sport directly into the crushing maw of dark obscurity, they will go shooting through a popularity wormhole, like a prune through the digestive tract of a cow, and pop out the other end into a parallel universe where people care about five-day cricket, Justin Bieber hasn't been born and middle-aged men in expensive suits are sex symbols.

How else do you explain the fact that whilst Test cricket's popularity is receding more quickly than Sourav Ganguly's hairline, those in charge seem to be taking a perverse delight in preventing as many people as possible from watching, hearing or even seeing photographs of the thing they claim to want to preserve?

The BCCI have asserted their right to levy a fee on commentators for the privilege of walking on their luxurious fitted carpets, for taking advantage of their beautifully designed plastic chairs and for having the opportunity to glance at the portraits of former members of the board hanging in the foyer of the Sardar Patel Stadium.

They would also be quite within their rights to institute a per-sheet toilet-paper utilisation charge, with small concessions for those who'd tried the prawn biryani in the Ravi Shastri Seafood Grill. And since the oxygen circulating in the corridors of all Indian stadiums is clearly BCCI oxygen, some sort of deduction might be appropriate, particularly for asthma sufferers who always seem to use more than their fair share of the stuff.

Likewise, the ECB are entitled to flog the rights to watch Alastair Cook scratching himself to Mongolia's premier cricket broadcaster, Ulam Bat and Ball, if the price is right. And if he wants to, Giles Clark can spend his weekends fiddling with his mouse, tracking down those ne'er-do-wells who keep trying to watch Test cricket on the internet and having them arrested.

But if we really want people to fall in love with the five-day game, should we be making it so difficult? Some sports try to seduce you with the promise of half-price tickets, free television coverage, pulse-quickening action, and a convenient playing schedule. At the moment, Test cricket's seduction style is to saunter up to you, yawn, slap you in the face with a mackerel and attempt to charge you £45 for a conversation.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Future of cricket

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Posted by Francis Tuohy on (November 21, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

Absolutely spot on! I love the way you speak incisively to the truth of the matter with great satire. I would imagine that @Sg's comment says more about himself than you. And this is support coming from a no-Englishman!

Posted by Jines on (November 18, 2012, 5:39 GMT)

Very good article. Exactly the situation.

Posted by Anonymous on (November 18, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

I can't blame just BCCI. Don't know what the hell is ICC doing.

Posted by Aditya on (November 18, 2012, 2:34 GMT)

Its a totally different world - suddenly there is no DRS and even the broadcasters have been asked not to show the Hawkeye. The old fashioned slow motion replay is what we get whenever there is an appeal for lbw. Definitely feels like 18th century

Posted by Sam on (November 18, 2012, 0:46 GMT)

Perhaps Andrew is nostalgic about the good old days when England used to dominate cricket and all the associated policies off the ground (Mind you - They have hardly ever ruled Cricket on the ground on a consistent basis)

Posted by Saahil on (November 18, 2012, 0:32 GMT)

P.S - The joke on Ganguly's hairline has to be your most uninspired moment as a writer. Too easy. Though you get giant brownie points for letting the second comment get past your moderation. Giant brownies. I'm hungry now. Till next time :)

Posted by Saahil on (November 18, 2012, 0:29 GMT)

As far as sarcastic, angsty rants go . . . . you normally do much better than this . . . . but I'd like to think the reason this doesn't have the intricate brilliance of some of your posts (including the one before this) is that the mind was less involved then the heart in this one. It is a just cause and I totally agree that a heinous crime has been commited. But is BCCI the sole accused. The issue with the press and the photographs is hardly the sole reason for test crickets decline. We all know the reason. Too many draws. No one wants to watch a sport where the most likely result at the start of the contest is a no result. Boxing matches don't end with a cup of tea. You want one side raising it's arms and the other side knocked out. THAT is sport. Stop tweaking the laws for the batsmen. Reverse the tide, give back to the bowler. Make the spinning tracks spinnier, the swingers swingiers and cut off the heads of the dead track zombies. Easy solution but who's listening?

Posted by The Fitness Doc on (November 18, 2012, 0:26 GMT)

Well said...wonder how many Indians related to the cricketing fraternity would have the balls to say half the things you've said...the BCCI has got to go....for the good of the game...some Indians do feel nice given the fact that BCCI is few of the Indian instituitions that seem to have a say on world stage...however, the truth is the BCCI is just a money spinning machine...full of business at the helm... Once again..well said...and keep it comin!

Posted by Rio Flava on (November 17, 2012, 18:19 GMT)

I have been following your articles for quite a while. It is indeed one of the articles I look forward to most on this website. Most of the others are either downright biased towards a certain country (hint, hint) or unfunny when trying to be funny.

You are however, a breath of fresh hair. Genuinely have me in splits most of the time.....

This is another one of them crackers.....

Posted by Anushrut on (November 17, 2012, 17:10 GMT)

Well

I don't like what the BCCI does either, but vilifying it they way we are is not an answer. I think we also add a certain third world image to BCCI ourselves as Indians and still in the habit of sucking up like the subjects of the empire find enjoyable to blame the BCCI for running itself the way it does. I don't know how many would have created the same hue and cry had it been a foreign board in control of things the way BCCI is today

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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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