I am sad that my friend Dave Martins is so dismissive of Test cricket (his column ‘It makes no sense’ in Stabroek News of 22nd November). I understand his view that Twenty/20 is what captures the attention and generates the money in today’s cricket and I certainly sympathise with the cricketers who can hardly be expected to sacrifice earning big money for the sake of playing Test cricket if that is the stark alternative presented to them.
But I cannot agree with Dave’s dismissal of Test cricket as having no future, seemingly relegating it to sporting history’s dustbin, perhaps not even accepting that a place should be left for it in international competition. To me it is infinitely valuable to make the effort to preserve Test cricket in which the great deeds of the game have been achieved and in which there is no reason to suppose such deeds and treasured moments will not continue to be recorded.
It seems to me that Dave misses so much in Test cricket when he dismisses it as an anachronism:
- It is cricket played at Test level ‒ its deeds, its heroes and legends, its famous and unforgettable encounters, its most memorable achievements and transfixing moments ‒ which has established the game in history and in our imaginations (Dave’s imagination, surely, as much as anyone’s). The hope of this continuing cannot simply be jettisoned.
- It is not only the very popular that is valuable ‒ in art, music, literature, theatre, sport. I think it was the God of Cricket who said that in his Father’s house there are many mansions. I have been at performances and displays in all the arts drawing audiences of a couple of hundreds which have struck me more than spectacles attracting thousands. This is an obvious point, and I think it does have relevance to Test cricket since it is only in this form of cricket that we get all the flavours of the game. And do not be fooled by empty grounds in Test matches. TV audiences of Test cricket still number in the millions ‒ though I am sorry to see that Dave no longer numbers himself among these.
- Dave scoffs at “dead rubber” Tests ‒ comparing these to championships in North American baseball and basketball, ice hockey in which games are not played when a series is decided. That is their way, their tradition. Good for them. But in our tradition every Test match stands on its own, and they are valid encounters between two rivals. Some of the greatest games have been played, and some of the most memorable records struck, after a series has been decided. It is like scoffing at drawn Test matches. Wrong again. A hard-fought drawn Test match is a feature of the game and some of the greatest and most thrilling matches have been drawn.
- Yes, indeed, players must be allowed to earn their fair share of the money generated by limited over cricket, but the players themselves will tell you that they very much want to play Test cricket as the highest form of the game. The challenge which most countries (but perhaps not the West Indies very actively) are seeking to overcome ‒ is how to organise the game to accommodate both limited over and Test cricket. There is every indication that this will be achieved internationally. The trouble is that in this the West Indies will play a much smaller role in Tests than our great history warrants.
These are a few thoughts which I hope against hope will induce Dave to take a less jaundiced view of Test cricket which he seems to my great regret to have come to despise.