“T“The English are not a very spiritual people,” said George Bernard Shaw, “so they invented cricket to give them an idea of eternity.” When Shaw said this, he had Test cricket in mind rather than modern shortened versions of the game. Sport as a religious rite. “Cricket is a process, not a sport; more of a leak than a drama; a summer frolic resembling a picnic or garden party,” wrote the English writer Paul West, who tries to explain cricket to Americans. He wasn’t entirely fair: Test cricket can involve high drama, the intensity of which is often heightened by the inertia that precedes it. But he was right: lunch and tea are important rituals, and exercise interrupted by a light drizzle will always have its critics. Groucho Marx was one. After spending a day at Lord’s with two Observer journalists in 1954, the American humorist declared cricket “a wonderful cure for insomnia”.
England and India are currently engaged in an exciting five-match Test series. England won the first Test with a remarkable performance from young left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, who took nine wickets on his debut. England’s young trio of spinners also performed well in the second Test, which ended earlier today, but a magnificent double century from India’s new batting sensation Yashasvi Jaiswal and some irresistible bowling from Jasprit Bumrah ensured the home side leveled the series .
It’s the perfect advertisement for Test cricket, so often written off as something that might have appealed to sports fans early on Paleozoic Epoch. But the message is likely to be missed because the games will be shown on TNT Sports, a subscription channel with limited viewership, and the radio rights are held by TalkSport. Lovers can follow online, but then it becomes a largely statistical exercise. Seeing is believing. It would be better if at least one England Test match per year was broadcast on free-to-air channels.
There is a paradox. Test cricket is widely regarded as the highest form of the game, the ultimate ‘Test’, but its future is forever in doubt. South Africa took one inferior The team is playing a Test series in New Zealand as its best players are deployed in domestic Twenty20 ‘franchise’ cricket. The signs so far – a hopelessly one-sided “Competition“.
The series are now shortened: the five-match epic between India and England is a rarity; the recently concluded two-match series between Australia and the West Indies, which produced a new superstar fast bowler Shamar Joseph, is more representative of the modern style, favoring short stories over novels and eschewing real narrative strands. Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have just played a unique test, but apart from those in the know, few would have noticed it.
Test cricket is a luxury in a world where brevity matters, and people (particularly television executives) are wary of a game that can last 30 hours and still end in a draw. Particularly resistant to the game’s fascination are the Americans, who swapped cricket for baseball shortly after the Civil War. Can tests survive? Traditionalists hope so. “You can’t be in England and not know the test result!” exclaims the dyspeptic cricket obsessive Certificates in disbelief in Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady Vanishes. Poor Charters would be in a permanent state of apoplexy at the indifference and neglect that now threatens his beloved game. As for his views on Bazball…