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Novelist, essayist and historian based in New Delhi

Where to now, Test cricket?

Test cricket's virtues have become sins in the new age, and that is why aficionados fear Twenty20: for the threat it poses to the highest form

Mukul Kesavan

May 17, 2008

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

Old-fashioned is obsolete: Test cricket's virtues are not always valid in Twenty20, as Dravid's team selection for the Bangalore Royal Challengers has proved © Getty Images

Those of us who denounce the IPL sometimes confuse fear and loathing. I don't dislike Twenty20 in itself: I watch passages of play in the IPL, gripped and fascinated. The sight of the eccentrically muscled Shoaib Akhtar bounding in from the boundary line to bowl at the Delhi Daredevils was exhilarating. Watching him destroy Delhi's top order was like watching an inter-species massacre: Attack Penguin Crushes Puny Humans. There's a tabloid excitement to the IPL which is infectious. To watch Shoaib and Sourav Ganguly embrace and high-five is to warm to a contest that sidelines nationalism to make room for club loyalty.

No, doomsayers like me don't dislike Twenty20 or the IPL: we're scared that they'll make our cricketing passions obsolete. As we fret about the future of the four-innings game (Will the Ranji Trophy survive? How will we nurture future Test cricketers if it doesn't?), it might help if we begin by recognising that we aren't alone. Historically, what is happening to cricket today has happened to other forms of entertainment - music, for example - in the past.

People who prefer Test cricket to the limited-overs forms of the game are often called "purists". This is the wrong term: fans of Test cricket don't see the long game as the "pure" form of the game; they think of it as the classical form. It is classical because it is a codified, cultivated form of the game, distinct from both local/popular/primitive forms of bat-and-ball games as well as modern abridged variants such as ODIs and Twenty20. Classical also in the sense of being authoritative and definitive. Rahul Dravid, for example, chose the players for Vijay Mallya's franchise on the principle that good Test players ought to be able to play Twenty20 cricket because the four-innings form teaches the Test player a classical technique that can be turned to any purpose, a style for all seasons. He was horribly wrong (as we now know) but this was more than an individual error: it represented the collapse of the classical ideal in cricket.

People frequently say of Indian playback singers that this singer or that was classically trained. It is generally meant as a compliment. Lata Mangeshkar's virtuosity and longevity were attributed to her classical training. But over time it has become clear that classical training is an optional extra for the successful playback singer because there have been so many who never had any, starting with Kishore Kumar. In the same way, Twenty20 tournaments like the World Cup and the IPL have thrown up players like Yusuf Pathan who have achieved great success and recognition via this upstart form of the game without any sort of track record at the Test level.

You could argue that this had already begun to happen with one-day internationals. Players such as Michael Bevan, Ajit Agarkar, Ajay Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh built reputations for themselves as specialist limited-overs players. But the difference in the skills required for Tests as opposed to ODIs was as nothing compared to the radically different demands made on bowlers and batsmen in a game that takes 40 overs to complete as opposed to one that usually takes more than 400. It seems likely that many first-rate Test players like Dravid and Jacques Kallis will never successfully adapt their techniques to the needs of Twenty20 cricket.

Just as playback singers and bhangra-pop idols earn vast sums of money and become hugely famous without having served a long apprenticeship to an ustad or a guru from a classical gharana, so too will young men like Yusuf Pathan become household names without scoring a run or taking wicket in domestic first-class cricket or making a Test debut. The IPL has made this possible and that is why aficionados of Test cricket fear it.

The classical training that was once necessary for worldly success is necessary no longer. Cricket's establishment and its following will continue to pay homage to the classical form, i.e. Test cricket, for years yet but it will increasingly become a kind of lip service, a matter of polite habit

The classical training that was once necessary for worldly success is necessary no longer. Cricket's establishment and its following will continue to pay homage to the classical form, i.e. Test cricket, for years yet but it will increasingly become a kind of lip service, a matter of polite habit, because the classical form isn't hegemonic any more. The headlines Twenty20 wins you, the column inches in the newspapers, the minutes on television, the endorsements it brings, the auction price it helps you net, makes the short game your first priority if you're an ambitious young cricketer. How could it be otherwise? Having survived 140-odd years of modernity and change, Test cricket has been brought to its knees at a single stroke by India's traditional merchant elites: Ambani, Reddy, Wadia, Mallya and Modi have Test cricketers the world over ready to jump ship to join a league still in its first season. It's a bit like José Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo abandoning opera to compete in the first season of American Idol.

Perhaps the follower of Test cricket can learn something from the survival of classical music in a world dominated by film music in India and pop music abroad. The three-minute song might be king but symphonies survive, ragas are revived, sangeet sammelans thrive, Chennai hosts its annual sabhas and classical musicians remain regulars on the Republic Day honours lists. If classical music, its virtuosos and its audience have survived the constantly foretold Death of the Gharana, perhaps Test cricket will survive the rumoured demise of the first-class game.

Maybe the first-class four-innings game could be reformed, franchised and made into a two-day, day-night, weekend affair with over limits. This mightn't please the dogmatic classicist, but what's the choice? A four-innings match played over 200 overs is considerably better preparation for Test cricket than a two-innings game played over 40. Besides, wouldn't it be nice to have a first-class league that people actually watched and cared about?

Classical music, western and Indian, has survived the commercial triumph of popular music because of its own resilience, the dedication of its fans, and the help of patrons, both public and private. In India, All India Radio, Doordarshan, Spic-Macay, private companies like the ITC, publications like the Hindu and India Today, and numberless private citizens have helped create a musical calendar and networks of patronage that have kept a classical form alive in demotic times. Perhaps the BCCI and the ICC can do as much for Test cricket.

I know. It isn't likely to happen. But there's no harm hoping.

Mukul Kesavan is a novelist, essayist and historian based in New Delhi. This article was first published in the Kolkata Telegraph

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Posted by Danny143 on (May 20, 2008, 0:09 GMT)

The comparison of classical music and test cricket may be correct, but test cricket is not going to fade in any cricket lovers mind. People have seen this T20, 50 overs world cup and even the ICL in recent times. But if you ask any cricket fan the best series in the recent time, it will be the last ashes series when England lifted the Ashes. I will call it as the best series of the century if I am not wrong, it was more thrilling than any T20 or the one-day matches played recently.

Posted by RNEER on (May 19, 2008, 23:09 GMT)

The classical music analogy is apt. However, one should note that with the advent of cinema, classical musicians adapted and the music industry pie got bigger. The traditional Carnatic classical singers optimized their delivery to the changing tastes of their audience and even included cine-music (meera, Bharathiyar songs et al) as part of their Kutcheris. As one of the bloggers posted, this is, after all, just entertainment. Similarly, the cricketing pie just gotten bigger. I only pray that the cricket organizers learn from the twenty20 format, and adapt to make test cricket livelier. Instead of complaining that the test cricket share of the pie had gotten smaller, enjoy the potential windfall by learning from this format, and market the sport internationally.

Posted by kman610 on (May 19, 2008, 20:41 GMT)

No other game has a system where in players are expected to adapt and excel in 3 completely different formats.Test cricket ,ODI's and T20's are very far apart in their format and each should be approached in a different way.It will be very hard to find players (barring a few gems like Warne and Jayasuriya) who can adapt and shine in each and every format.My suggestion would be ,if cricket will have to survive in the 21st century,its governing officials should decide which format to stick to rather than dilly dally with 3 formats.

Posted by abinanthan on (May 19, 2008, 15:05 GMT)

Comparing Twenty20 with Test cricket is simply absurd, atleast after watching these many games. In test cricket, with good defense and limited shot making ability, a player can score runs consistenly. Because, the length of that game allows him to wait to score runs until a ball of his kind is delivered. But 20:20 is a different ball game. Basically you have to score more than a ball and that compels you to score runs on every ball with different field settings. So players with limited shots, cannot make it in 20:20. I have seen all the good to great test players struggling to score of a ball. We can say that if a test player starts playing 20:20, it will make him to play more shots which he never wanted to play in test matches and thus makes him a better player.

Stop whining about 20:20 and just enjoy the skills displayed.

Posted by ibharathm on (May 19, 2008, 12:55 GMT)

I didn't like the t20 at all. Once cricket was a game where the players needed to use their metal strengths than physical strengths. but after t20 i have seen there is no use of mental strength. just come to field, if u have strength hit the ball to clear the ropes else get out. can this be a game..? if u want to play a game like this just because that we won the world cup then its wrong.

Posted by Reckless_Akash on (May 19, 2008, 12:30 GMT)

It is indeed likely that T20 will destroy at least one form of cricket,but I'm sure it wont be test cricket,its the one-dayers that will take a beating, at least as far as TV audience is concerned.Of course they will survive a few more years cos they are an advertiser's dream(where else can you show ads every 4 minutes for 8 hours a day?),so the boards across the world will try to hold on to them for as long as they can,but the fact remains that overs number 20 to 40 are too dull compared to a T20 game! Test cricket is different though.I'm sure there's still an audience that likes to see a fast bowler pounding in and having a batsman hopping,4 slips n 2 gullies waiting for a catch,batsmen playing blood-n-guts innings to save games on a 5th day turner,spinners who do more than serve dollies that can be (mis)hit out of the ground!More importantly, there will always be players who'd like to be remembered for averaging 50 in test cricket than for their T20 exploits! So relax,n enjoy Mukul!

Posted by CitizenShaker on (May 19, 2008, 11:53 GMT)

Mukul, you were the first one who had proposed such a league, in the cricinfo magazine. And I agree totally with you. If you ask me, I would not mind ODIs dying (who can afford to spend 8 hours these days). T20 can easily supplant ODIs, and since its established tamasha, it would not make a difference if India take on Pakistan, or Delhi play against Mumbai. If only the administrators allow Test cricket to then flourish, by having 5 Test series (instead of 2 as against England later this year), I would be delighted. The franchises can take over the domestic cricket also, to make a more robust structure than the Ranji trophy.

Posted by DAN22 on (May 19, 2008, 9:10 GMT)

I believe the problem is that the traditional form of cricket hasnt changed much except from an external force. Test cricket pandered to the whims of votebank politics in allowing teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe play tests for a long time. Taking the same example of traditional versus yuppie class, look at well-done period films. They also jostle at the turnstiles with the potboilers. Classical music survived because the purveyors kept pushing the limits. The way Australians play test cricket (besides the effect of ODI) has made test cricket entertaining. T20 will do the same to ODI's. I do agree with the longer boundary theory for T20. Why not make the straight boundary smaller and the square boundaries longer, thus making playing the V lucrative.

T20 cricket should however be strongly avoided in school cricket and Junior level cricket. This would force a strong "classical" base to the cricketers.Anyways ask MSD if would have traded the T20 world cup with for a Aus series win.

Posted by Sharath.Komarraju on (May 19, 2008, 9:06 GMT)

Classical technique didn't just come out of nothing. It was born, and it endures, because it has been shown by time to be the best way to score with minimum risk and effort.

Just because the likes of Kallis and Dravid are struggling to hit their straps at Twenty20 now doesn't mean they will continue to do so forever. Let the boundaries go back ten metres or so next season, and then let's see how many "non-classical" batsmen actually make it to the top of the run charts.

Besides, that is not even the case this season. Gambhir, Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Sanath Jayasuriya have decent techniques. They're not exactly mindless cross-batters.

With time - and I give it two seasons - we will see the importance of technique and footwork being reinforced in twenty20 as well. Just let the bowlers wisen up a little. In the meantime, take a chill pill, Mukul.

Posted by Perdy_M on (May 19, 2008, 7:42 GMT)

Comparing music to Cricket, Ha-ha. But one thing I can surely say is that T20 is definitely exciting cricket that has big sixes, quick wickets,bollywood, music, action, cheerleaders all rolled into one. Crowds seem to love it, even the concept of different nationalities has been handled nicely by the Indian crowds, who have supported good cricket, whether any player from any country.

We must not forget that test cricket will always retain it's charm to cricket lovers, but at the same time, test cricket is not pulling crowds to the stadiums, so the cricket administrators are bothered at that aspect also. The fact of the matter is nobody wants to wtach 5 days of dull cricket, when they can have Instant cricket, just like a Macburger or a Subway Combo.

Perdy Mohindru, NEW ZEALAND.

Posted by Unseen on (May 18, 2008, 16:12 GMT)

Sport is just another form of entertainment, like music. So long as there are takers, it will last. So, the analogy of classical music can theoretically apply to test cricket as well. However, one wonders had the three tenors insisted on having all their performance five days long, six hours a day would they have met with the same amount of success. Test cricket falls behind because of its length. If you can incentivize the classical shots and shorten the duration, may be test cricket can rejuvenate. There used to be Cricket Max in New Zealand ( I don't know if they still play it), where they encouraged hitting in the V, but I guess the game didn't catch on. It even had two innings like tests, but I guess it's still not the same.

Posted by shbt158 on (May 18, 2008, 15:18 GMT)

@santhoshkudva what do you like about t20? the 'sound' of the ball hitting the willow or the that of the mad crowd screeching? does the sight of ball passing over the ropes please you in some weird way? or do you imagine yourself as the batsmen who is picking the bowler over the shortened boundaries? t20 is more primitive than baseball. t20 is just too short to be worth anything. the appeal of a 50 over game lies in the batsmen requirement to both score runs at a brisk pace and yet preserve his wicket. test matches actually requires the captain and the batsmen to use his brain unlike in t20. t20 can never produce greats like sachin, bradman as the greatest requirement of a t20 player is just a willingness to sacrifice his wicket and go for the shots and big muscles. what will follow t20? will people come to a 'cricket' match where each team plays one over each? will they watch a game where the 'captains' just toss the coin and the one who gives the right call is the 'winner'

Posted by trap99 on (May 18, 2008, 9:34 GMT)

test cricket will die a natural death unless it is that extent my suggestion is that 'test' cricket becomes a test of all the things we know that test cricket is by having each inning be a maximum of 80 overs covering a period of 4 days.....

Posted by santhoshkudva on (May 18, 2008, 7:40 GMT)

A league for the purists. I have been thinking about this for long.Have huge boundaries,of a minimum 100 yards. Its features are: 1-since the field is spread, emphasis will be on playing in the gaps and running hard between the wickets 2-teams will pick genuine batsmen ahead of hitters. 3-only genuine hitters like symonds will survive. 4-it will demand superior fitness from players. 5-it will call for better captaincy from fielding sides, since field placements will be crucial. 6-big ground will serve as a deterrant for batsmen from going aerial. since the pace of the game would slow down, let 40 over matches be played. Let only 4 bowlers bowl as against the minimum 5 today. 2 to bowl 11 and two 9, or each 10, both options available to fielding side.The flexibility will help fielding sides to allow a bowler who has had a bad day to bowl an over less or allow a good bowler an extra over. By this combination, an extra batsman could be picked since scoring runs would be hard labour.

Posted by hermithead on (May 18, 2008, 6:45 GMT)

I would personally like to see the Twenty20 format breakaway from the administration of the ICC and form its own governing body exactly the same as Rugby League broke away from Rugby Union in 1908. It appears we have a format of cricket that is entertaining for fans, Lucrative for players, marketable to the USA and practical in duration yet its potential will constantly be undermined by the purists who as Kesavan put it are scared the IPL and T20 format will make their "cricketing passions obsolete". So maybe if Lalit Modi and Allen Stanford pulled their resource together they could form an autonomous T20 Cricketing Council rather than relying on the "purist" driven ICC to make something of this format.

Posted by Krish.25 on (May 18, 2008, 6:43 GMT)

Test Cricket is fun only when the contest is tight, like the recent India Australia series , but most Test Matches/Series are pretty Boring to say the least,In today's fast paced Life, who has time to watch a game for 5 days?

About the purist, seriously who the hell cares how the runs are scored, what matters is that runs are scored.

Posted by slsr on (May 18, 2008, 5:29 GMT)

Excellent article! Starting with the IPL, the markets have finally taken over running of the cricket game. Test cricket cannot survive without "patrons" since it can never make business sense like T20. The analogy with classical music seems perfect!!

Posted by sameer_ravi on (May 18, 2008, 2:42 GMT)

I think it is too much to say that TT will obscure test cricket. What is in imminent danger is the inexplicable nature of 50-50 cricket. For some reason 50-50 stands between the extremes of TT and Test, much like an average student not being able to imitate the best and worst in a class.

50-50 has changed how Test cricket has been played, similarly - Test cricket has changed how 50-50 and TT has been played. There is still an appreciation for some one like McGrath. Rahul Dravid has proved he can be a force to reckon with in 50-50, Sachin has graduated everywhere. So what is the danger? The danger can only be "inferred" when you compare cricket with football leagues or Americanization of sport. I would personally want to watch an India-Australia test match that Chennai (my hometown) playing Rajasthan Royals.

In fact, I would go ahead and say that Cricket is setting a precedence for culture and cocktail for the rest of the sporting world.

Posted by cricpb on (May 18, 2008, 2:24 GMT)

Firstly Yusuf Pathan has played well as a batsman (with some aggressive centuries) in this year's edition of Ranji Trophy. He happens to be an aggressive player who can also do well in ODIs and T20. People dont seem to realise the benefit of having an form of the game apart from ODIs and Tests. T20 helps to tap in to the vast talent pool of world cricket that the few men who select test teams dont look at. Test cricket is not dying . It is simply when played between some teams , boring as always and hence, pales in comparison to the excitement of T20.

Posted by Gilkabba on (May 18, 2008, 1:41 GMT)

Nice article Mukul. People are reluctant to give recognition to T20 because it violates the basic attributes of cricket. The bowler does not need to be special to pick a wicket here and no points for the batsman for putting a price on his wicket.

I still think we must embrace the newest form of cricket without worrying too much about. Test cricket is a classical, traditional and the purest form of cricket and it will take its own care. What is disheartening to see however is the tendency of the boards to reduce 5 tests series to 3 tests and 3 tests series to 2 two tests.

When LOIs arrived, everyone feared that this is the end of test cricket but they were wrong. What people have failed to see is the platform that T20 will give to cricket in general to expand outside commonwealths.

The sound of leather on willow will always remind me of the white trouser cricket rather than the hiphop fastfood cricket full of razzmatazz...

Posted by SriS on (May 18, 2008, 1:36 GMT)

Mukul, you have got to run as fast as you can to be in the same place. Otherwise you will be left behind. Cricket is not an exception.

Change is the only constant thing.

Posted by defended_to_the_on_side on (May 18, 2008, 1:31 GMT)

I wasn't born when OD cricket began in the 60's. And I believe people moaned then about the detrimental effect it would have on test cricket. After the previous three World Cups, and especially last years farcical edition in the Windies, we can safely say, we know which form of the game won that battle. OD cricket is boring. All very predictable one sided games. The recent India Vs Australia finals in the commonwealth series, the Aus v SA game at Joburg, and a handful of games from the last couple of world cups are exceptions to the rule, but they need to be looked in to properly and developed to be more exciting. 20/20 cricket is still very young, and needs to be given a chance to grow and mature. I dont believe that the IPL has been properly managed from an ICC point of view (but then again what have they managed properly recently). 20/20 cricket is not a crass version of the game. 20/20 cricket is like a cheap sparkling wine whereas Test cricket is like a magnum of Verve Cliquot.

Posted by Sai8 on (May 17, 2008, 23:23 GMT)

I am very happy to read this. Your comparison with classical music is especially insightful. Everyone wants to hold on to what they were taught to be great. It is hard to change the views and opinions that we have lived with for years. Lata Mangeshkar is a Legend and few in my father's generation will question it even if I always feel Asha Bhonsle is better. Sachin Tendulkar is a Legend for my generation, my kids will feel another star is the greatest and I might want to disagree. These sort of arguments will continue till the end of time.

I can watch commercial masala movies as well as art cinema considered boring and slow paced by many. I don't look down upon either of them and that is what I wish everyone would do - understand that it is alright to have differing opinions and respect that fact.

I don't have the time anymore to watch Test cricket or even One Day cricket. T20 allows me to watch a match or an innings here and there. And it feels exciting and unpredictable.

Posted by Sufian84 on (May 17, 2008, 19:47 GMT)

this is why i am a big fan of mukul. nice article. sadly everybody nowdays want to se ugly cricket instead of pure cricket

Posted by Deep_Cover on (May 17, 2008, 18:17 GMT)

Good article, but I have to broaden the scope of the argument on a couple of points. After almost a hundred years, cricket has not significantly spread beyond the commonwealth countries. When I try explain cricket to my American friends, the common response is "Are you kidding me?" regarding the 5-day Test matches. In an increasingly smaller and time-challenged world, cricket needs a short and thriling version if it is to survive and thrive, and Twenty20 is the perfect vehicle. It's an evening's entertainment for the whole family, and the addition of cheerleaders and razzmatazz is a spectacle, very similar to baseball and football (soccer) games, to get children interested and mesmerized at a young age. Therefore, I think that Twenty20 is good for the spread of the game to other countries. It does not threaten Test cricket, since those fans seriously interested in Tests will always recognize the subtle nuances, complexities and finesse. However, it does threaten the 50 over version.

Posted by ashwin_547 on (May 17, 2008, 17:40 GMT)

test cricket is the penultimate Bangalore could take on the next tournament by storm just watch! but 20 20 could be used to develop the sport everywhere but series such as the Ashes, Australia SA and any England Series rock!

Posted by W.Akram on (May 17, 2008, 17:09 GMT)

I completely agree with you. Twenty20s, which were actually only allowed to be seven per year, are currently dominating cricket. But the worst part is, like you mentioned in a previous article, it has not actually even been successful. You said that most of the fans did not pay. So, actually, the BCCI is making up numbers to cover up the fact that hardly anyone is interested in Twenty20. I have several complaints of it. 1) Make the boundaries a decent length. Enough of these 55-metre boundaries where if a 65-metre six is hit, it is labelled huge. 2) Give the bowlers some flak as well. 3) Put grass on pitches. 4) Don't put a ban on those people that criticize Twenty20.

The ICL was much better and actually managed to make T20s look good, but the IPL is a disgusting copy.

T20 isn't even cricket! It's more like some form of baseball.

Posted by Yogs_Quma on (May 17, 2008, 17:01 GMT)

In a nutshell, i feel that still now there are many people who like cricket game but are not that passionate to watch cricket all day or for 5 days at the cost of their work or time.....In fact there are many people in the above category..Consider the world cup cricket which often come during board exams,,,Many miss it for the sake of their studies. Housewives miss cricket because it spans across multiple days.. People at work cant watch.. This T20 cricket is a welcome break.The match gets over in a few hours with the same amount of entertainment,,, Just because it caters to a different audience, doesnot mean that the game is lost. Test cricket will equally survive because there is an altogether different set of audience...however lesser in number... Why shud one stop one dayers and T2O just to promote Test cricket? OR shall i say,stop cricket so as to promote hockey bcoz Hockey is our national game?

Posted by forzaps on (May 17, 2008, 17:01 GMT)

Its amazing how the bulk of the elitist drivel I read these days focuses on restricting T20 and the IPL rather than making Test cricket more interesting to paying fans. Also, considering the fan base of T20 and Test Cricket as mutually exclusive is offensive to fans like me (I think theres a large number out there) who love test cricket and who've become rabid fans of their hometown IPL franchises. I think one problem with test cricket is that a lot of the bilateral test series (barring The Ashes and Border-Gavaskar) lack context and seem largely meaningless. Maybe have a home and away world test league (with each leg being a 3 test series) that runs over 3 years? (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh shouldn't feature in such a league of course).

Posted by ashok16 on (May 17, 2008, 16:56 GMT)

Mukul, please explain to us what exactly is classical about the test matches in the 80s when Indians, Englishmen and Pakistanis would grind each other to death with 0-0 draws in 5 match series? Nice gentlemen who would refuse to take a risky single or bend their backs and pick up a ball.

The only interesting test cricket then took place between West Indies and Australia. And these days it is Australia vs India or with England.Unless Australia is playing test matches are completely pointless. Honestly tell me, are you watching England play New Zealand (a country of 2 million people; that is less than 1/5th the population of Bombay) or watching the IPL?

20/20 (or some related short form) is here to stay. Everybody except cricket reporters hold it in high regard. Test cricket will remain as it so cheap to run and the pinnacle is so difficult to attain. ODIs are dead.

Posted by santhoshkudva on (May 17, 2008, 16:27 GMT)

The batting displayed by the likes of Mccullum, hussey, yousuf pathan and gilchrist have been brilliant. so if these guys repeat their feats in test matches, will test cricket be deemed as dead? about bowlers crying foul, let us all remember that the jobs of bowlers has been made easy; a bowler can claim to be successful if he contains the bastmen while still not taking wickets. if batsmen have upped their games from scoring at 3 runs per over in test matches to 10 in limited overs, why cant bolwers?

Posted by santhoshkudva on (May 17, 2008, 16:20 GMT)

it is the problem with all purists, self styled or otherwise; they simply cannot accept a change. it must be remembered that a batsman in a limited overs game only complies with the object of his department-to score runs and do it without wasting time. what is the harm in scoring a boundary by clipping the ball over the fine leg that has been brought in? should credit not be given to the batsman for thinking differently? and what is it that a straight drive has got that a pull shot hasn't? Bat speed and power come into play in a limited overs match simply because field is spread and the ball needs to travel faste to make it to the boundary. in a test match a mere push can fetch a lot of runs because the field is up.

Posted by proudkolkatan on (May 17, 2008, 15:08 GMT)

haha Lataji represents Test Cricket, and Kishore Da represents 20/20!! not a bad comparison!! frankly I prefer Kishore, which is probably why I prfer this 20/20 to test!

Posted by kingofspain on (May 17, 2008, 14:39 GMT)

20/20 is still a novelty, eventually it will get old and find its niche. Test cricket has been around ages, it'll be fine. Why not get rid of the 50-over game? That seems like the true anachronism to me.

Posted by scottie2hottie on (May 17, 2008, 14:28 GMT)

I can only really talk about what the authorities do in England as I refuse to pay for Sky & give money to Rupert Murdoch but they seem to think "Football's really popular so let's make cricket more like football" Rather than realising that crickets key to survival is to celebrate it's difference.Hear hear Mukul & all those who think like him.Not everyone is obsessed with 20/20.

Posted by aditya87 on (May 17, 2008, 13:05 GMT)

I still think that Test cricket as a whole is not under threat. The only types of Test matches that are under threat are those involving teams from New Zealand and West Indies. They haven't done themselves too many favours by losing a lot of matches recently.

Posted by vswami on (May 17, 2008, 10:09 GMT)

I have only two grouses which I hope IPL will fix .. lengthen the boundaries and add more grass on the outfield. We want to see more 2s and 3s being run. These are minor and can be fixed easily. Test cricket must survive on its own merit. It cant be protected simply by denying people Twenty20. If test cricket is interesting, people will watch it, otherwise not. The arrogance of cricket administrators in taking the paying public for granted ( as can be seen in the way light was handled in Lords test yesterday ) will always be tested by competing events such as IPL. Thank god we have competition and the right to choose.

Posted by srinivas.kidambi on (May 17, 2008, 8:41 GMT)

I agree with on with analysis about why dravid and kallis failed...and dravid hasn't been in the best of forms even in test cricket after the West Indian tour....watching rohit sharma score runs without ugly swipes was pure joy...and ofcourse yesterdays KKRs performance shows the need of "classical" skills too if you want to survive on a difficult day....coming to the players per omer an aspiring cricketer shouldn't even be allowed to choose what he wants to do to earn more money in his life so that we can sit back and watch a few test matches every year...its like saying only one sector is attracting more graduates in India and the others are not able to find enough skilled employees....its want them...then you pay for them.....and dont get me wrong...I would always wakeup at 5 AM to watch a test match in australia......but I also dont mind watching a couple of hours of T20 before going to sleep at night....

Posted by VoltaireC on (May 17, 2008, 8:37 GMT)

Mukul-Unfailingly insightful as always! Yes T20 is altering the dynamics of the game at breakneck speed. In fact, truth be told, the matches have been exciting and skills pretty high-standard. Would these cause death of test cricket as we know...I don't think we run that risk. Simply T 20 cannot survive as a league of 9 months like Soccer in England/Spain/Germany and NBA/NFL/NBL in the US. Remarkably cricket is the only game that has various formats;same gave over 5,4,3,2 days and now this new epidemic of 20 overs. It's hard not to imgagine the sizable 'true fans' yearn for the real-thing and keep the tests alive and kicking for yet more longtime. Your parallels to classical music are highly instructive and cast this whole T20 mania in a new light. As to T20 becoming the real-thing and the classical forms becoming a curiosity.....too early to tell! Either way exiciting times ahead. Yugandar

Posted by Uppi on (May 17, 2008, 7:16 GMT)

Mukul has got it absolutely right; Test cricket is under tremendous pressure. And yes, the fans of classical cricket are afraid. I will not go into details of an article I wrote under the byline of Yogesh Upadhyaya in livemint on the web but most people forget that test cricket is being hit by double whammy - T20 and privatization. It could have survived one assault but will find it very difficult to survive both together.

Posted by heath_eld on (May 17, 2008, 6:54 GMT)

I tend to agree with the last poster... i have no doubt that the majority of fans (at least in Australia and England) prefer the real game, aka tests. The IPLs success is based on the players being famous - here in australia, it makes a small article deep in the paper... whereas when the australian test team plays, especially in the australian summer, it is the main sport... and the IPL wont make that "out of date"... will Mumbai verses Kolkotta in india ever take over from the first day of Australia Versus England at the MCG or Lords... never... whereas on the subcontinent 20/20 and one dayers are the main form, even when its india vs Pakistan... perhaps it will end up being like Rugby League or Rugby union, where they are seen as different games - League is mainly played at club level, and union mainly nationally, at least here in aus.

Posted by omer_admani on (May 17, 2008, 6:51 GMT)

Exactly my thoughts. The major problem that suffices, as 20/20 builds and emerges further, is that the set of skills required for 20/20 are vastly different from that of test cricket. It means that specialist 20/20 players will find a job in the future which, in fact, will become the 'higher-skilled' talent, whereas the meager pay of the test cricketer will make him 'lesser skilled'. There is no question, then, that which set of skills would an aspiring cricketer cultivate. The idea of 20/20 is fundamentally flawed. If the major barrier to widen the cricket audience was time, then play a 20 over match in which 5 specialist batsmen can bat and 5 bowlers can bowl. Better, make it 15 overs, two innings per side. The batsmen will conserve their wickets and the bowlers will be allowed to bowl proper swing, and length and line. This is the only way test cricket can be preserved, by having similar set of skills required for both forms, not competing and conflicting.

Posted by Ajay42 on (May 17, 2008, 6:50 GMT)

I'm hoping that Vkarthik has got it right but I fear not. One cant wish away T20, as it is a child of it's times. People seem to have no patience anymore to watch plays, read books or do anything that takes more than a few minutes. Test cricket played over fifteen sessions is a magnificent anachronism these days and much as I love it, I'm forced to admit that even I wouldnt be able to watch England and New Zealand play their stultifying version of the game this summer.For me, there is nothing to match the beauty of a great Test match hundred by Tendulkar or a wonderful spell of bowling by Warne with men round the bat. The problem many people still think this way?

Posted by rnarayan on (May 17, 2008, 6:16 GMT)

Mukul, methinks you worry too much. Test cricket and 20-20 cater to different audiences, with a significant proportion who like both, and some who like one and not the other.At another level, the audience can be split into those who come to watch cricket, and those who come to see the side they "support" win. Keep losing, and you'll lose the latter. I think both will survive and prosper, and the number of sixes hit will soon cease to be a draw as they become as commonplace as fours. As for 'classical" training, I disagree. Sure, you have your Yusuf Pathans, but most of the successes have been relatively correct batsmen who have succeeded at the longer version. It won't be long before the bowlers work out the uni-dimensional sloggers, and they wont have the technique to adjust their game.As for the Kallises, Dravids etc, it is not their "classical" grounding, but their mindset that is the cause of failure. Laxman, who is naturally aggressive, has done OK without hitting 6s.

Posted by Suresh_Krishnamurthy on (May 17, 2008, 5:42 GMT)

Way to go Mukul. Mukul is now toning down his objections to IPLT20. It will not be long before he sings its praises. I have always admired the writing of people like Mukul and Gideon. These days however their criticism is trenchant and when that is the case you can usually expect logic to go out of the window. I am a rabid test cricket fan having grown up on the feast served by the West Indian team in the 80s. That has not stopped me from enjoying the intensely competititive T20,whch is what attracts people. T20 will definitely have an impact on test cricket - what it will be we can only speculate. But test cricket will adjust. Test cricket like Music, Classical Languages, Religions, the World will survive. It does not need self-proclaimed saviours. How different are Mukul and Gideon from chauvinistic people who would rather see the world destroyed if their views are not accepted? Healthy criticism should also see the positive side of issues.

Posted by SVivek on (May 17, 2008, 5:16 GMT)

Since IPL started, I have felt so many things. At the beginning, I hated it. Then, as the matches progressed I felt that it was interesting. Now I feel its an over-kill. If they play too many of these matches, then people might lose interest.

At the end of the day, 50 over cricket is boring as told by Chris Cairns in the Quotable quotes section. Test cricket is even more horribly boring when it is played in the sub continent. The best thing BCCI can do about test cricket is to stop conducting tests like the recent Pak series and SA series. I dont understand what is so classical about those test matches. And about IPL, it is just not enough to satisfy me. Just 20 overs of cricket is supposed to be played by amateurs in clubs and colleges. Not professionals like Sachin or McGrath.

Posted by batmannrobin on (May 17, 2008, 5:06 GMT)

I neither agree with the author nor the comment saying the IPL has provided only cheap entertainment. Test cricket will survive and the IPL has been equally exiciting.

Posted by Vkarthik on (May 17, 2008, 4:08 GMT)


I think you are over-reacting. Lot of fans would still watch Test match. I think you are over-rating the popularity of T20. There are as many haters of IPL as many lovers. T20 is a single paced game. It has removed so many cricketing elements. So it won't last long. People will be tired of watching some random player coming and hitting sixes and fours in a tiny ground. Just conduct a T20 on a bigger ground. You won't see these ridiculous totals and slogging. IPL has deliberately shortened the boundary for cheap thrills. Their only motive is to make money. When you have people with limited cricketing knowledge in this case Lalit Modi is handling cricket this is what we get. It is nothing but a glorified net practice. Lot of guys are just having nets. Soon whatever people left still loving this, will be tired of this charade.

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Mukul KesavanClose
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.
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