Say “Over” to test cricket

Saturday, 25 June 2011 00:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Lenard R. Mahaarachchi

A soccer match, a rugby encounter or a basket ball match - and so many other games have decisions in that we have a loser and a winner, but it is not so in test cricket. You keep playing for six days at the risk of many other options and finally say it is a ‘Draw” which means that no loser or winner in spite of the costs involved or the time spent.

What a crime and what a ruinous waste of resources. That could have been better utilised. Such a game would have been good enough two centuries back, but today when man is fighting for time, who can afford the luxury of six days straight and presto say nothing happened (no winners or losers ) after all the fuss and fury of five days – fuss of the slow batters and fury of the speedsters respectively)

Who started this drab game / If you trace the genesis of the game, one will find that lazy men in cold climes, who did not have anything better to do, wanted to do it with the bat and ball for as long as they are tolerated by viewers. I am amazed that none so far has thought of banning the long version of the game that ends in a ‘big yawn’ (draw) clinically termed a draw when seemingly nobody has gained or lost. Cricket’s long version may have been alright two centuries back, but now? No wonder the Americans or the Chinese do not like this game.

 What was started to while away time in cooler climes came to be embraced by hot countries who cannot live in doors, let alone play in the hot sun.

Fair lanky Lankans of our island look like negroes, after playing cricket in the scorching noon sun throughout the dozen moons. Very rightly the cricketers – call them Lotus Eaters – were known as “Flannelled fools” which s still apt though they now wear no flannels but remain fools.

 Thankfully, there is good news that the gentlemen’s game is to replace even the 50 over edition with a 40 over or with two innings of 20 overs each.

This surfaced at a meeting the ICC had repackaging cricket at its annual conference in Dubai, a few moons back. But looks like the ICC remain silent on the five day affair, unwilling to unseat cricket from its pinnacle – the test variety. I think Kerry Paker is right in doing what he did, may be because he was sick of that long drawn game. The IPL is a shade of what cricket is gonna be in the near future.

Besides being a revenue spinner, it provided a healthy scenario, like in a WC Soccer game. Going by the fun and the interest shown by cricket mad fans, it is the right thing to abolish the five day stuff once and for all and dump the five day stuff with its records et al within the cricket archivist. There may be an argument that short versions will be the monopoly of big time businessmen and advertisers. But the ICC and the local boards can keep a strict tab on how the game is manipulated and save it from corruption.

 At this juncture let me interrupt and browse through history to trace the genesis of the shorter version of cricket. It was way back in 1973 during the third test between arch rivals Australia and England that the new game was born as if out of time. In a five day match not a ball was bowled due to rain resulting in a 40,000 crowd being in suspense, discomfort and disappointment.

On day four when the weather gods looked kindly on the miserable men, (both players and spectators) the wise captains (not the vice captains) - decided that a short game with limited number of ‘overs’ be played to please the frustrated crowd.

This format is said to have given birth to, to-day’s ODI. Why cannot the game of cricket be disciplined to produce a result, like having to bowl a ‘must 20 overs’ in the weaning hours of a match, as is done today. Or why cannot the lead in the first inning be taken to declare one side winners, when at the end of two innings the game ends in a stalemate.

Something has to be done for the sake of the game rather than perpetuate in the dull long drawn drab game that ends in a ‘big yawn’ draw, a dreaded word for result oriented fans.

Let the ICC and local boards of controlling cricket think twice about the two century old game and produce something new in keeping with the times.