'The practical has triumphed over fantasy'
Test cricket is in decline in India, according to Ajaz Ashraf, writing in Scroll. The reason for this, he surmises, is the change in the ethos of the grassroots game, particularly at the school level.
Mind you, in those good old days, school cricket was mostly a 40-over game, punctuated by drinks and lunch breaks, stretching from 10 am till 4.30 pm. Yet it lacked the hurly-burly of the abbreviated forms of the game, much in vogue now. It wasn't the duration but the philosophy of playing which inspired the young to imagine their cricket in the mould of Test cricket, or the long-form version.
School cricket was an extended apprenticeship to acquire attributes recognised as most valued. It was a step on the journey to become a cricketing artist, even though most knew they might not play the sport in college. It was they who became the educated audience of Test or Ranji matches, and taught those younger to them to distinguish right from wrong, beauty from crass, in cricket.
Travel around the city and watch the cricket as is played in the maidans, residential colonies, or in schools now. The earlier imagining of the sport has undergone a transformation, the defining attributes of which are now pragmatism and lack of imaginative indulgence. The opening bowler can count himself lucky to be given a slip; the batsman smites with the impatience and anxiety of a man working against a sharp deadline. Reverse sweep is in, shouldering arm considered a waste of delivery. There is no waiting, no pause, and no reflection.