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July 22, 2013 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Hoopin’ and Hollerin’


Could test cricket be the most modern form of the gentleman’s game?

Before you literally explode with bewilderment, let me qualify that. Obviously Twenty20 is the most recent form of the game, ahead of ODIs and (cough) Cricket Max. By ‘modern’, I mean it’s the most in-step with today’s lifestyles. We’re all over social media, we watch our sport predominantly on television, we obsess over statistics, and an exciting contest is important. The recent Ashes are a fresh illustration that test cricket wins at all of those things, and more.

Cricket, by its very nature, lends itself easily to social-media discussion and the internet in general. The game can be broken down into small and easily digestible units, meaning that you can share a six-second clip on YouTube without missing much context. You can tweet a score and the fall of wickets without breaking a sweat, and live updates are so easily digested they’re essentially yoghurt.

The beauty of tests is that everything happens so slowly. You genuinely aren’t required to watch every ball of a five-day match to enjoy it, and the overwhelming majority do not. That slow build-up of tension works almost as well over the internet as it does at the ground, without actually having to skip lectures.

To enjoy a T20 or ODI, you have to see at least the second innings. That’s a three-hour commitment, unlike the sampling of a test buffet. With beer, banter and chips it’s so easy to drift in and out for the good bits, and then stay up ’til 3 am when a plucky 19-year-old is doing something magical.

The internet lets us geek out over ridiculous stats, an addiction familiar to all NBA fans. The history of tests is amazing, and equal to it is the mind-boggling amount of numbers generated by a five-day match. There’s plenty to seek your teeth into.

As a bowler I love to see a low-scoring match. Two teams really duke it out on a green seamer (or a subcontinental turner) for all-round supremacy, and it’s as much about surviving as it is about making runs. The trend has recently been to flatten out pitches and reduce bowling to a medium-paced accuracy-fest, under the assumption that big scores draw crowds. I think the Ashes and other recent test series have proved to us instead that the best cricket is close cricket.

We love to watch a result, and when top teams bat for three days you’re just not going to get one. Good bowling pitches (and smart, aggressive bowlers) bring good captaincy into the equation, and put the world’s best batsmen through their paces. Take note, groundskeepers and administrators: it’s for the good of the modern game.


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