I am ready for some Test match cricket. It’s just the around the corner for Pakistan and Australia. I wish there was more Test cricket because it is the cricket worth watching. It is the cricket worth following. It is the cricket worth studying. Australia has not played a Test match for over seven months. Last year was an Ashes year so there was Test cricket all year. But in 2012, Australia did not play a Test for almost seven months between April and November.
Test matches in UAE can be an unknown quantity. The conditions are grueling for the players. The heat is extreme and the pitches can be sub-continental. Tests against Pakistan can be an unknown quantity for many reasons. But I don’t care. I just want more Tests. I want something I can get my teeth into.
But am I being a spoilt brat? There is more Test cricket played than ever. Back in the dark ages, even as late as the sixties, there were some summers with no Test cricket at all. There were intervals of more than a year without Test cricket. It’s true.
My objection is the ratio of Test cricket to limited overs cricket. We have ODIs, international T20 and all sorts of T20 competitions (IPL, Big Bash, Champions League etc) coming out of our ears. That is what I object to. Australia does not play South Africa in Test matches enough. Australia has not played Bangladesh in a Test match since before Gilchrist retired – almost 10 years ago.
Australia has warm, dry winters in its north. There could and should be more Tests in the Top End. Am I kidding myself that sanity will prevail and some ODI cricket will be dropped from the program? I wouldn’t be so foolish as to think that less T20 might be played but surely a big part of the ODI program can make way for T20. T20 is a reflection of our times. We live in an era of instant gratification. An era when a large percentage of the population does not want to dig deep and work hard for results. When people, given a choice, will choose comfort over character building experiences.
There is more chance of McDonalds closing its doors than there is of T20 diminishing. There is more chance of people reheating their meals in saucepans on the stove, instead of using the microwave, than T20 taking a back seat.
But there is nothing new in this. Limited overs cricket is probably at epidemic proportions more than ever but the issues of accommodating it have existed ever since its invention. I am reading “The Barry Richards Story” at the moment. I don’t know why. Well, I do. It was free and I have run out of books. Anyway, it has some interesting insights into the era when South Africa was frozen out of world cricket. Unfortunately, the book was published in 1978 (when Richards was just 33) and we missed some useful insights into WSC. But I digress. I did find some interesting comments on pp 93-94.
Barry Richards said this of his 1969 English season: The season wore a new look with the introduction of the John Player Country League (the 40-over competition). The players held mixed views; its popularity undoubtedly revived interest at the turn-stiles, but the crash-bash style was hardly cricket as we knew it… Though I have made several thousand John Players runs, I can hardly remember one innings in any detail.
There you have it. Limited overs cricket was in its infancy and already comments were being made about its lack of meaning and character that continue to this day.
The 1st Test between Australia and Pakistan starts in Dubai on Wednesday, 22 October. Bring it on.