We live in an age when hurried experiences and fleeting pleasures are the norm. There are very few vestiges of the languid past which remain in our cognizance today, and these too are largely confined to back-of-beyond places on our planet. Test cricket is the sort of activity that mankind has all but shed from its repertoire. Five days of playing one single match! People sneer and smirk at the very thought. The shorter white ball format, of T20 and 50-50 fame, is much more to their liking. Such slam bang matches cause the senses to pulsate transiently and they
fizzle out before the evening is over. People take to them more readily since they identify with instant cricket just like instant noodles, online shopping and breezy affairs. Five day Test matches and couples who have long term relationships are both endangered species today.
Gone are the days when people would crowd around a television set in a market place to cheer every run that Sunil Gavaskar scored in pursuit of one of his numerous centuries. I still recall with awe the day in 1986 when Vivian Richards blazed his way to a century off 56 balls in a Test Match! These days we have live streaming of Test matches on our smart phones but we have no one to share our lows and highs with! Rare is the individual who appreciates and discusses Test cricket’s nuances with a friend or a co-passenger on a bus. Doctors HK Bali and NK Arora and senior Advocate PC Markanda are three aficionados of test cricket about whom I can personally vouch. They never miss a ball!

Spectator galleries are largely full to the brim when the IPL comes around, but largely empty when an engrossing Test match takes place. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not done enough to promote and market Test matches in the past decade. In England, South Africa and Australia,  on the other hand, stadiums are full to capacity at each Test match. A very large number of people turned up to watch the recently concluded India-England Test series. They appreciated each little landmark with gusto and applauded both teams for some fine cricket. The fact that India lost 4-1 is really galling, but each session of the series was engrossing. It is also a sign of our times that the current crop of Asian batsmen score at a quicker pace than their counterparts from other countries, having been brought up on the limited overs variety. They have not discovered the art of building an
innings and playing for time, which the Test format often requires. Yet if you ask them, they would excitedly say that it is Test cricket in which they would love to make a name for themselves, over and above other formats.

Anachronistically, the inability of batsmen to play long innings these days has ensured result oriented Tests, and very few drawn matches. Gone are the days of dreary draws. Each Test has drama and excitement, with no surety about the trend that an ensuing session would follow. The glittering centuries at the Oval by KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant on the last day of the just concluded series, came too late to save the day for india, but were scintillating to watch.

A wily spinner who can bamboozle batsmen with his art, a natural swing bowler who can keep the slip fielders interested all day long or a gritty grafter who suddenly erupts with a series of boundaries, can all make for fascinating viewing in Test cricket. And perhaps that is why Test matches have stood the test of time. In many ways they reflect life’s ups and downs. They also test the mettle of the players to the hilt. And just like 5 set tennis matches in a Grand Slam tournament, they often go down to the wire, leaving one party feeling very relieved, and the
other, very downcast.

So the next time Virat Kohli plays the sorts of innings he recently did at the Edgbaston and Trent Bridge Tests, let’s give him the moral support that he needs, by tuning in to some real cricket!

vivek.atray@gmail.com