Wednesday, November 3, 2010

133 years of Test Cricket and counting

It seems an anachronism in this day and age – five whole days of: strategizing, changing targets based on current statuses, deliberating endlessly on field settings, pushing irregular batsmen up the order and lining up non-bowlers at top order batsmen based on where the sun is on the horizon, possible ten-wicket hauls in a single innings and individual scores in excess of 400, and after all this there is still no guarantee that there will even be a winner at the end… But Test Cricket is a multi-million dollar sport and in the midst of betting scandals and other assorted crises emanating from relatively newer versions of the sport in the hallowed world of the gentlemen’s game, it is still the best advertisement for cricket there is.

For those of us who have lived through the times when the game still had a rest day on what is now the 4th day of a match... and when the West Indies ran riot with their pace battery, and when their exuberant batsmen swaggered in and out of the pitch nonchalantly chewing their gum no matter if they were triple-centurions or out at 99... and when folks still spoke about Sunny Gavaskar taking his own sweet time to remain unbeaten on 36 at the end of India’s innings, supremely disdainful of the new sixty-over format he was being made to conform to in the middle of his fabulous career... and when VVS Laxman almost mythically shouldered the burden of an embarrassing follow-on and turned a home series, in danger of becoming a bitter spectacle for the hosts, on its head... - it is a thrill-a-minute ride over five whole days of nail biting action that can encapsulate every emotion possible in a spectator sport, winding it through a process that demands the patience, fortitude and temperance of the fan, and rewards him/her with unabashed glee or wretched pain at the end.

It took me some time to stop following every turn and twist in the fate of the nation’s first eleven, and this even after the mighty treason of Mohd. Azharuddin, but eventually the lure of the one-day format and the twenty-twenties wore thin after so very many BCCI-mandated series’ per year, and team resurgences, and shirt-waving acts from dressing-room balconies. I have now made my peace with the sport and rest assured that there is at least one format of the game that shall forever remain unchanged, indeed only get more competitive, and continue to challenge me right till the umpire offers the light to the batsmen at the end of another long, long, long day.

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