Kolkata: Many wouldn’t know that Test cricket started its journey today in 1877 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The first-ever Test match was held between Australia and England between March 15 and 19. So, it’s Test cricket’s birthday today! For the current generation, the glitz and glamour associated with the truncated versions of the game may have taken the shine off from the five-day format, but let’s not forget, Test cricket is real cricket. Forget, the number of runs one scores in ODIs or T20 Internationals, an abysmal show in the five-day format means, you are not taken that seriously as a batsman. This applies to bowlers as well.
Well, what a special day for Test cricket today! But the pioneers of the format must be wondering in their graves as to why, stands are not filled up during Test matches. Why is it so, that an IPL or a Big Bash match draws more crowds?
Well, a modern critic would point out to the paucity of time in this highly competitive age that has threatened the popularity of the game in whites. But hold on! It’s the same person who would respect a successful Test cricketer more than a consistent performer in the modified versions of the game. The reason is simple: Test cricket puts you in an acid Test. It tests your patience, class and temperament. Forget the mammoth scale with which T20 tournaments are organised all over the world, answer a question: Does this format really exhibit one’s true potential? Aren’t these matches more of a gamble?
One bets, if you look deep down, greatness is assessed once you have excelled in Test matches. A cricketer, even if he has played more than 200 ODIs would regret if he fails to represent his country in Tests. And with due respect, to repeat, you are not taken that seriously as a cricketer if you have not performed in Test matches.
A Yuvraj Singh despite being a powerhouse of talent will always miss out on a spot among the greats because he has been found wanting in Test matches. A Michael Bevan, considered to be a legend in ODIs doesn’t hold the respect a Steve Waugh or a Ricky Ponting enjoys. Sachin Tendulkar is Sachin Tendulkar because he has excelled in all the formats of the game including Test cricket. When you sit back to choose the all-time XI, Sourav Ganguly doesn’t find a place, but a Virat Kohli gets in. Ganguly no doubt, was a consistent Test player, but his numbers in Test matches are ordinary vis-à-vis the ones in ODIs.
If we look back, there are a number of cricketers who have shown exemplary character and attitude in Test matches. And they are hailed as greats. Even a Cheteshwar Pujara, is considered to be a role model by many wannabe cricketers because of his ability to play long innings in Tests. One overlooks the fact that he struggles in the shorter versions of the game. Rahul Dravid is an icon and his numbers in Test matches are a vindication. Look at the great batsmen of Test cricket who are still worshipped: Don Bradman, Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Brian Lara, Martin Crowe, Zaheer Abbas, Hanif Mohammad, Jacques Kallis, Tendulkar, Dravid, VVS Laxman, Graeme Smith and others have attained super-greatness.
In the bowling department, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Muttiah Muralitharan, Glenn McGrath, Kapil Dev, Malcom Marshall, Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee and many others wielded magic with the red cherry in Tests. And they are super legends of the game. A traditional cricket fan still swears by Test cricket and ignores the extravaganzas associated with ODIs and T20 Internationals.
And who says, there is no excitement in Test cricket? Have we forgotten the two Tests that ended in a tie in 1960 and 1986 respectively? Have we lost memories of the famous Bangalore Test between India and Pakistan in 1987? What about the famous duels between Gavaskar and Marshall or Richards and Dennis Lillee? Do we set aside the famous or should we say (in)famous Bodyline series?
Now, this brings us to the question: Can we have a World Cup in Test cricket? Two attempts were made by the International Cricket Council (ICC), once in 2013 and later in 2017, but the tournament on both occasions got cancelled. That is unfortunate. One bets, it could have set the ball rolling for Test cricket to win back its lost glory. But several factors were an impediment. However, a World Test Championship would be the perfect tribute to Test cricket. We are waiting!
Meanwhile, we can only pray and hope that more people throng stadiums to witness Test matches. The format of Test cricket should not be tampered with to make it more popular. This means we are demeaning the magic of Test matches. Let Test cricket stay the way it is. To reiterate, there is no alternative to Test cricket and here’s wishing it a Happy Birthday once again!