Test cricket is still alive and kicking

Since the inception of the slam-bang version of cricket and its popularity, many armchair critics were of the view that it’s going to affect the popularity of other two versions of the game – ODI and Test cricket. Twenty20 might have given ODI cricket a run for its money, but when it comes to Test cricket it would be unfair to compare these two formats.

Test cricket has its own charm and aura that can never be surpassed by any other cricketing format. Test cricket is the oldest form of the game. It’s the real test of the temperament for any player. Ask the importance of the longest version of the game from players like Yuvraj Singh. There are many international cricketers like Yuvi who are one of the best when it comes to limited formats, but in whites they have always struggled to cement their place in the side. For Yuvi playing a few more Test matches, in his otherwise decent career, remains right on top in his wish list.

Unlike ODIs or T20s, Test is not just about hitting the big shots but also about technique, temperament and character. Ask Suresh Raina who failed miserably to capitalise on few occasions that he got to play in whites. Even after being an important cog in the Indian team in the other two formats, he has been struggling to make a place in the Test squad due to a couple of technical flaws in his batting.

The only major title missing from the illustrious career of one of the greatest tennis stars and former world number one, Ivan Lendl was the Wimbledon title – a fact we all know. Test cricket is what Wimbledon is for tennis. If Wimbledon is the most prestigious slam in the history of the game then Test is also the pinnacle of cricket.

Does the innings of 175* by Chris Gayle against Pune Warriors during IPL-6 stand anywhere near the gutsy knock by the Australian debutant Ashton Agar? Can we compare the spells bowled by James Anderson in the first Ashes match with the best bowling spell of the IPL to date by Sohail Tanvir (6 for 14) in the inaugural IPL? No we can’t. The authenticity of Test is way above than the Twenty20.

Look at the Ashes series. Look at its history. The recently concluded first Test of the Ashes 2013 didn’t have a single dull moment. Be it DRS, excellent debut by Ashton Agar, fight-back by England in the second innings after trailing by 70 odd runs or the never say die attitude shown by the last pair of James Pattinson and Brad Haddin – the Test match had all the ingredients which make for exciting cricket.

Ashes is a long series, but still most cricket fans follow it keenly in almost all the cricket playing nations. Even the GenX in India, who are followers of EPL or La Liga, have an interest in the Ashes.

According to Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, the response of the Australian public to the first Ashes Test reinforces the game’s popularity Down Under. He informed the media - “The first Ashes Test reached an incredible 9.35m combined viewers across GEM and Fox Sports. First session on day two averaged 720,000 viewers nationally on GEM making it the highest audience on a secondary digital platform ever.”

India’s tour of South Africa is still more than three months away but the anticipation is quite visible even now. Meanwhile, all eyes are on the players of India A, who will play a few matches in South Africa before the Test series actually kicks-off.

The interesting factor about Test cricket is that no matter which two teams are playing against each other, if the contest between bat and ball is exhilarating, every cricket fan wants to see it.

But the ICC needs to understand that Test cricket still has that charm to remain as the most important format of the game. However, few things need to be taken care of.

Everyone wants to see result oriented Test matches. For that you need pitches that should give batsman and bowlers equal opportunity to dominate, especially the bowlers because one side needs at least 20 wickets to win a match. Secondly, a championship of Test cricket is must – something which is already in the pipe line of the ICC. Third and most important is the exclusivity of Test matches and its venues.

So, if the longest format is able to get the fair backing from the ICC, Test cricket can touch new heights, something that no other format may be able to reach, at least for now.

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