As the test cricket season went into full swing
up north, with two series involving three top nations and one upstart determined
to make its presence known, I was reminded of something former Arsenal great
Thierry Henry once said: “I don’t watch cricket. How can you like a game that
requires you to take four days off work to follow a test?”
This very issue emerged last week as critics began, once again, to
wonder aloud, although perhaps with renewed uncertainty, about the future of the
Worried the modern-day attention span, which they feel has been
eroded even further by the 20-over format, does not accommodate a marathon
sporting event, ludicrous suggestions have been flung around clumsily, much like
Imran Tahir trying to get to grips with that thing called fielding.
In a debate among cricket’s most vocal former
players-turned-commentators at Lord’s last week, shortly after England’s purple
patch was somewhat defecated on by Australia in the second Ashes test, legendary
former Aussie spinner Shane Warne called for a trial of four-day, day-night
tests, which of course would be played – in all seriousness – with pink
“Garbage!” cried Sir Ian Botham. “As soon as the sun goes down, the
conditions become horrific.”
I get a sense Botham was not really concerned about conditions as
much as he was about the prospect of playing with those pink balls.
Former England captain Michael Atherton said even he wouldn’t
bother going to watch a test where “700 plays 600”, referring to the dead tracks
prepared for matches in some countries.
It really makes one wonder when those seemingly so entrenched in
the tradition of test cricket rubbish aspects of the format they hold in such
But it was Michael Holding, the deadly paceman from the West Indies
better known as “Whispering Death” in his heyday, who cut through the din.
Commenting on the importance of preparing pitches appropriately for
test matches and on the role pitch conditions play in test matches, he proposed:
“Why don’t we just do away with the toss and let the visiting team decide what
The rest of the panel nodded sagely in agreement, knowing full well
how the outcome of the toss ripples through the quality of matches when pitches
are prepared in favour of the home side.
If test cricket is to bounce back, as it were, Holding also
suggested there needed to be something at stake for participating teams other
than national pride and meagre bonuses.
He proposed a league with two divisions, where teams play one
another home and away, and, at the end of the season, the bottom two are
relegated from the higher division and the top two are promoted from the lower
Could it work? Possibly. Enough to make the series the Proteas are
playing in Bangladesh more intriguing? It seems so. If standings were at stake
and the series was being played in the broader context of a league, perhaps it
wouldn’t be so easy to shrug off the Proteas’ poor performance and praise the
plucky Bangladeshis’ resolve.
And, of course, we’d have a lot more “meaningful” test cricket to
look forward to.
@Longbottom_69 is an armchair cricket critic.
Unlike Henry, he can’t think of a better reason to take four days off work