Why I love Test Cricket? Wow, where do I begin, from the beginning I guess. I was 15 years old when I fell in love with Cricket for the very first time.
I was watching a match between South Africa and Australia on TV. The venue was the Wanderers in Johnnesburg. The year was 2006. If you know anything about this beautiful sport you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Of course I’m talking about the greatest Cricket match of all times, a match simple known as the 434-Game.
It’s generally accepted that if you want to introduce someone to the game of Cricket you must show them a T20 or at best an ODI, and I was no exception. That game captivated my imagination in a way I’d never seen before, and I was forever in love with Cricket. It was like that moment you lay your eyes on the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen and you just know that she’s the mother of your children.
I didn’t think it could get better, and considering how incredible that match was it wasn’t supposed to get better. But it did. It got so much better in fact that these days I don’t even consider that 434-Game when talking about my greatest moments in Cricket. I had got acquinted with what others call ‘proper’ cricket, some call it ‘real’ cricket or the ‘pure’ form of cricket, I just call it Test Cricket.
I really don’t remember the first Test match I ever watched, but it was some time during 2007. I wasn’t actually watching per se, the TV was just on and I was sitting on the table studying. It was my final year of high school so all I did was study whenever I was at home. But unlike everything else on television the Test match wasn’t disturbing me one bit, it was in fact helping me concentrate more on what I was doing.
I soon got into the rhythm created by the flow of the match, it was a slow pace. The sound of the ball hitting the middle of the bat as the batsman solidly defended was soothing, comforting almost. The long moments of silence of silence from the commentators, the sound of the tip of the bat stubbing the crease repeatedly as the bowler ran in to deliver.
The exclamations of “wooo” from the crowd every time the ball went past the outside edge. All these nitty-gritty things you wouldn’t pay much attention to put me at ease somehow. Even though I wasn’t focusing on the TV, I felt as if though I was part of the action, like somehow I was in the cricket, or the cricket was in me. I still had no idea what was happening. The idea of a teams bowling pointlessly at each other the whole day still seemed devoid of sense for me.
What was the reason? I still didn’t get it. All I knew was that somehow this cricket was good for me, it put me in a good space, gave me a sense of peace and tranquility. Somehow I felt like if these guys could run in and bowl all day why couldn’t I sit here and crunch these numbers all day. I felt empowered by the presence of Test around me.
I felt motivated, but not quite yet inspired by it. And it went like that, Test match after Test match. I must have watched about a dozzen Tests that year without having clue what this game was all about. I can’t claim that it was love at first sight like the ODI of 2006 because it wasn’t. It was a slow, rigorous and sometimes strainous process; much like reading an epic novel for the first time. But little by little it filtered through. One small drop after another and eventually ,Test cricket filled my heart.
The first test I remember watching with some degree of understanding of what was happening was the India Tour of South Africa in 2009-10. The classic Sanchin vs Steyn series. By that time I knew what it meant to declare, I understood why there were more slip fielders in the morning than there usually are in the afternoon. The idea of two innings per team had now permeated my mind. I was beginning to fall in love with Test cricket.
There’re so many things to love about this game. The pitch inspections every morning just before the start. The coin toss on the first day, which often has a lot bearing on the results depending on the wicket. The expectant clap of hands at times from the crowd when a fast bowler is in his delivery stride.
The look on the batsman’s face when he’s facing a fierce fast bowler who’s bowling at speeds of 145 kph and sending down a flurry of short balls down the wicket. The joyous sight of seeing a batter completely surrounded by three slips, a gully, keeper, silly mid-on, silly mid-off and fine leg; a sight that will never be seen in one day cricket.
There’s so much romance in Test cricket, there’s a deeper love that only the real purist can understand. Test cricket upholds and promotes the fundamental principles of discipline, patience, passion and love. It defends the traditions of our forefathers, those that taught us to behave like gentlemen, to respect ourselves and others and to stand for what is right. Cricket as a sport, but most especially Test cricket, breeds a reading culture amongst it’s followers.
The purist is most typically an educated, well informed on topics such as history, cultured, civilised; a chilled out fellow who likes travelling and reading literary novels. Test cricketers are the most educated of any professional athletes.
A true fan of Test cricket sees the reflection of their own personality within the game itself. But over and above this, the one thing that I most love about Test cricket is the life lessons that one can gleen from it. There’s nothing that Test cricket doesn’t teach you. It is a sort of a bible in way. And most astonishingly it seems that every time I watch a Test match something which is relevant, in it’s similarity to the current challenges in my life, always happens. In conclusion, I’ll make a bold assertion that Test cricket has transcended The boundaries of categorisation and can no longer be classified as just a sport.
It is a religion. You need to believe in Test cricket to see it’s true beauty. Your personality needs to conform to the creeds and traditions it upholds for it to inspire you. But not only is it a religion, Test cricket is in fact a way of life. It must live in your consciences every moment of every day. It must be your reality. You must be walking down the corridor at the office one day and all of a sudden feel the urge to practice a forward defensive stroke.
You must feel the compulsion to throw every little thing you lay your hands on like Saeed Ajmal or Shane Warne would throw a red ball down the wicket. Instances of Test cricket must creep up in every aspect of your daily life for you to consider yourself a purist. That is what we call to ‘live’ Test cricket.
In the end I think Samir Chopra summed it up better when he said, ‘A Test becomes enmeshed in daily life, in its rhythms and flows, in many different ways; its fans may even rely on its presence as a comfort of sorts, one that helps them deal with life’s often anxiety-inducing pressures and restrictions.
So many deride test cricket saying, “Who has time to watch five days”. Well it goes something like this:- In every workplace the television is left on in the lunch room and a radio is also left turned on wherever it can. Whenever someone goes to the toilet they are required to stick their head into the lunch room and note the score.
Anyone seen to be coming from the direction of that television or radio will be quizzed on the proceedings. The whole workplace stays involved in the game.’