Why I Love Test Cricket

As you leave the pavilion and walk on to the vast plain spread of bright green that lays in front of you, you suddenly feel the rush of anticipation and excitement that surrounds the minutes before the commencement of a 5 day-long sporting event. You put away your half sweater or jacket to warm up before the game, you do your best to condition yourself somewhere between feeling the sting of a chilly Sunday's morning air and the warmth of the early morning's sun, creeping in through the disappearing mist. As you close the gate behind you and go over the thick white rope that acts as the restrictive boundary of the game, you can't help but start wondering about the various conditions that will covertly govern the rest of the game.

Is there a hint of breeze? Which direction is it blowing? Is there an early humidity? Will the sun choose to play little to no effect due to an impending cloud cover thus affecting the red sphere of leather differently than a blazing southern sun in a spotlessly clean blue sky? There have been many who think they can beat this aspect of the game and go blazing through the overs smashing runs after runs. But how many of them actually appear in the long list of legends of this format of the game?

Then there's also the pitch. The 22 yards of turf perhaps play the most important role in the game, as every captain has agreed in all formats of the game. Is there moisture in the pitch? If so, how long will it take the moisture to dry out and render an unpredictability of sorts? Is it 'green'? Are the grass-cuttings rolled over? How will a new ball move and how and when will the old ball start turning?

And it is nothing short of an epic scene from a Hollywood flick where as you've settled yourself in the middle, looking over to the small crowd around you that has gathered to watch the game, you look over the pavilion and notice the sun shine through the dispersing mist and clouds over the two individuals who, in all their 'armor' and elegant sporting gear, are stepping in to the field to face your offensive challenge. You pass the leather ball around, flex your arms around and warm up as they arrive in the middle, inspect the pitch and take their stance. Should the bowler inaugurate the offense with a 145 kph bouncer or use the moving-ball conditions and try swinging the ball from the start?

Either way, it's game on.

That's the ground I'm most comfortable in - lucky to have had one!

It is understandably difficult for most of the people to love Test cricket if they haven't experienced all that in their life. To appreciate Test cricket, one has to have, at least once in their lifetime, stepped on to a cricket field on a Sunday morning to play the format of unrestricted overs' cricket. It is romantic in ways the shorter formats can never be realized. While 50 overs' one-day cricket is something that strikes a perfect balance between the shorter and longer versions of the game, retaining in parts, the mental aspect of Test cricket and the pace of Twenty20 cricket. While many legends have voiced their support for the shortest version of the game, it has also been agreed that if one has to remain true to cricket, one has to consider both aspects of the game.

Test cricket is the most aptly named ball sport. It is indeed a test, not just of the body but also of the mind. Will Brodie, the Australian sports journalist rightly comments that Test cricket is a test of not just the technique but also of ticker. Without one encounter, an individual can dominate but rarely determine the result. It would be hard to explain how it works, its appeals, the idiosyncrasies, the romanticism, to someone who didn't grow up with it.

While Test cricket is a novel, Twenty20 is a tweet. Doesn't mean it lacks excitement!

So what do we love most about Test cricket? Lets face it, we don't have time for a 30 hours' long game, spread across 5 days - that's the whole week, sans the weekend! I have personally thought a lot on the psychologies behind understanding this long format of the game and psyche behind finding it exciting amid the fast life of the modern world. Why is it that even though Test cricket has been declared terminal for a couple or more decades, it still provides fascinating contests? How, even though it has been declared as a financial dud, does Test cricket manage to defy all expectations and attract large attendance in certain parts of the world? There's no denying that legendary grounds like Adelaide, MCG, Lords and Eden Gardens are primarily known for the Test fixtures they host?

The reason is similar to the fact that you'd rather read a novel than this blog! In some logic defying way, it's more refreshing and nourishing than the faster formats of the game.

I mean I can understand that you can also go for the Chetan Bhagats and Durjoy Duttas on the shelves at the book store, but occasionally you eye the international bestseller stand and (to keep it relevant, I'm not going to pick a Burtrand Russel or some non-fiction), you find an interesting new entry by Jhumpa Lahiri or Amitav Ghosh?! And once you're down 20 pages, you realize that there's the difference - they are a class apart for a reason!

By the fourth day of a Test match against Australia, every armchair spectator who stays up through all the sessions of every single day, becomes an expert alongside the Indian captain and start suggesting bowling changes and fielding strategies to dismiss the set batsmen out there in the middle. No wonder, a player's rating and his mettle, are carefully considered upon how they perform in the heat of a Test cricket cauldron.

Having said that, I'm not sure if that's still the way India is doing things these days. I am obviously referring to the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy, down under, particularly the selection conundrum in the first Test match at Adelaide. There were many aspects of the game that struck me as exceptionally insightful. But the very first and rather the most obvious concern was the selection of the rookie wrist spinner, Karn Shama. Why he was selected ahead of other wrist spinners like Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla is a mystery to me, and R Ashwin's exclusion is another. With a First-Class career average of something greater than 30, the only reason to select him for the all important first fixture would be his recent outing in the Sunrisers Hyderabad jersey at the IPL earlier this year. 11 wickets in 13 T20 matches are pretty good for a debutante. But does it deem a position for him in the playing XI of the Indian Test team? I beg to differ.

While clearly the way Kohli played in the Adelaide Test showed a change in the mindset of how one plays cricket in India, Test cricket itself is at the brink of extinction. Maybe IPL has something to do with it. And if it weren't for traditions and history, it would've been discontinued in the subcontinent, methinks! While now and again, certain partnerships in the ongoing series are reminiscent of the ones by Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly, the bowling is largely a disappointment. Well, I guess I'm still stuck in the Ganguly era of Indian Test cricket.

Anyway, while Test cricket seems to defy all cynicism and boorish behavior and refuses to die out, fans like me will continue to root for it.


  1. A balanced article, the charm of test cricket is the best across all the formats :)

  2. Thank you.. Your comment is well appreciated.. let's hope Test cricket is there to stay! :)

  3. It is test cricket that made me hate the game.
    Play for five days and no result ?????

  4. "No result" in terms of the game, yes.. but Test cricket provides a contest where the team has to do most of the work, using the changing conditions in their stride. Suddenly, time is not there to restrict the opposing team, and then it becomes a duel of a kind. Many times though, a draw is all you need to save a series or to maintain some kind of historically significant undefeated record. Much like soccer, a draw also has significance. About time, I personally like the 5 day format, because the conditions of the pitch / weather / and so many other things is unassumably dynamic, and the fact that the teams need to adapt to those changing conditions, adds to the appeal to the game.

    I have played that format of the game myself, so maybe I'm biased. And there have been instances when the team has pushed hard to draw a game to maintain an undefeated streak or simply to 'save face' sometimes. But yes, Test cricket is indeed for the romantics.