WHITHER Test cricket?
Will this purest form of the game succumb to yobbism?
A Sky News poll among cricket fans in England shows that 57% believe the youth are no longer attracted to the game.
They want a shorter, more exciting format than the five-day one, in spite of all its subtleties.
However, traditionalists are cheered by the comment to Sky News of a former England player that when he started in 1961, they were already writing the obituary of Test cricket.
And that was 57 years ago. But as you watch the spectacle of IPL T20 cricket in India, you wonder.
Huge crowds watching the outlandish scooping shots that would have got you caned at school.
The baseball-like smacking of sixes off a white ball (that doesn't behave in the air the way a red one does) on the most docile of wickets. Who would be a bowler in T20? Will true pace bowlers disappear as a type?
Nobody begrudges AB de Villiers and the lads the spondulix they are making out of T20. But can it ever replace Test cricket? Can anything replace a paceman bowling with the new ball (red) to an umbrella field?
The intricacies and calculations – the uncertainties – of the five-day game? If Test cricket is the equivalent of chess and oneday cricket is draughts, T20 is like snakes and ladders.
And now in England there's the dickens of a row. Colin Graves, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, is punting a new and even further dumbed-down version of the game, he calls "The Hundred".
It is conceived as an uncomplicated bite-sized format – 100 balls bowled by each side – in which family TV audiences, who might know nothing about the game, would watch, the same way they watch soapies.
Graves says: "The younger generation, whether you like it or not, are just not attracted to cricket. They want something different. They want it to be more exciting. They want it shorter." Can there be anything more exciting than some of the Test series we've had recently?
Traditionalists have accused Graves of everything from ill-conceived planning to not actually liking cricket. As Sky News puts it: "The sound of leather on willow has been drowned out by the sharpening of knives." Instant gratification. THE above became a topic the other night at the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties. A fellow who is an avid and knowledgeable fan of Test cricket predicted sadly that it would last between five and 15 years.
"Youngsters today are different. They're on Google and smartphones. They don't want to think. They just want instant results, instant gratification. They're not going to watch anything for five days." Heavens, have we really dumbed down that far? Does this mean there'll be a schism – the traditionalists and the moderns in cricket will split entirely, each going their own way?
In that case, surely we traditionalists must grab what we already hold – Lord's, the MCG, Kingsmead, Newlands, The Wanderers… The others can play somewhere else.
The name's origins
ON THE Mercury in days of yore, the style book told us sternly not to write of rugby "tests". Cricket played tests, rugby played internationals. That has now gone by the board, of course. But where did the word "test" come from? Google tells us it denotes test of strength, test of character, test of skills, etc… pretty ho-hum. What Google doesn't tell us is an alternative version that's around. In Hampshire there was a Test Ground, named for the River Test which flows past it. In the 19th century, as a novelty, somebody organised a match between English cricketers and Australians living in England, mainly students. They played at the Test Ground. The novelty of England versus Australia became known as a Test Match, and it kind of caught on. This alternative version seems much more likely. Can anyone out there help?
THE telephone rings in a police station. The sergeant picks up the receiver. "Help!" says a voice. "I want to report a burglar in a nymphomaniac's bedroom!" "Who's speaking?" "This is the burglar."
IF YOU have any doubts that we live in a society controlled by men, try reading down the index of contributors to a volume of quotations, looking for women's names. – Elaine Gil