A Salute to the Beautiful Game of Test Cricket

Author: Sam Gillespie  

You don’t have to be the world’s best investigative journalist to realise that Twenty20 Cricket has fast become the most popular brand in the game. Birthed out of a necessity to appeal to a younger generation whose attention span is getting shorter and shorter, T20 has enough action and excitement to keep any cricket sceptic interested. The neat, three-hour package is the perfect product to spread the game to demographics such as mothers, young children or anyone who is put off by the length of test cricket. While T20 may be introducing cricket to new fans, it doesn’t seem to have convinced older fans and cricket traditionalists, which raises the question: which one’s better?

Short answer? Test. I don’t consider myself a “cricket traditionalist” – there are plenty of people who have more of an understanding, appreciation and connection to cricket than me – but I tend to agree with their ideals on cricket. There is no greater test of a person’s physical, mental and emotional strength than test cricket. Cricket should be five days in the iconic Australian Summer sun. The spectacle of test cricket is the slow grind; the tactical battle to get an edge over your opponent. It may take an hour, or it may take four and a half days – that’s the beauty of test cricket.

There is no greater feeling than the excitement of test time in the Summer. Whether at the ground, surrounding the wireless or in front of the telly, it brings people together and is what makes Australian Summer great. Teams filled with greats like Border, Boony, the Waugh brothers, Tubby, Punter, Langer, Hayden and Huss would reach totals of 500+ while excited onlookers watched from the grassy knoll at the boundary, cold beverage in hand.

These are sensations that just can’t be replicated in the shorter form. Many of the shifts in player and fan mindsets can be attributed to T20. Less value is placed on the most important commodity in the game: a player’s wicket. Instead, boundaries, outrageous shots and entertainment seem to be the highest priority. Attendees are met with novelties like cheerleaders, pyrotechnics and electronic dance music. It’s just not cricket.

T20 definitely has its place in the game. It has widened the reach of cricket and introduced it to many who may have been unfamiliar with the five-day format or found it uninteresting. The Big Bash League’s popularity has translated into rising participation in junior cricket in both men and women. It has created a platform for players on the outskirts of international cricket to gain some attention and play on a world-class stage. Most importantly, it injects much needed revenue into Cricket Australia which will keep the traditional formats up and running long term.

While it may generate funds for the longest form, it won’t necessarily generate interest. As the next generation grows up watching and loving Big Bash, it will become the only form of cricket that matters. They will have a greater understanding and affinity for Big Bash, the teams and the players. Their net sessions will be focused on replicating Glenn Maxwell’s most recent six by reverse sweep, rather than playing defensively and putting away the rubbish.

We’re already seeing the effects T20 has had on international test cricket. With T10 and 100 ball cricket being introduced, who knows where the game is headed. Maybe there are ways to balance an appreciation for both test and short form cricket. Maybe it’s just an inevitable change in the way of the game. Either way, give me a beer and put me in front of the telly for five days and I’ll be happy.