Cricket and the 500th Test for India

I seldom write on sports. But of course, only if we think Cricket is just a sport, at least in India; It is the blood that runs through the nerves of the Indians. It is the thought that drives them closer, even strangers get to dance on the same tunes when India registers a win. Those are reasons enough to share my thoughts on it. And, hence this post.

The Indian cricket’s milestone figure of the 500th test match comes at a time when most of us are more interested in the pleasure of seeing the Cricket balls smash out of the Cricket ground. The test cricket, unlike the other – faster – formats of the game, is about patience. It is about something that today’s generation, mostly, will not choose to see… “you know, who waits for five days to see the result”, someone might add.

Amidst the current air of reaching the milestone figure of 500 test matches, I sense this strange feeling: Will we ever get to see India’s 1000th test? Not because it took us exactly 80 years to reach this milestone – and that, doing the basic math, it would take us another 80 to play the remaining 500 – but because the trend is shifting, for whatever reasons.

The game is increasingly becoming more about the story and glory of batters than about the overall spirit of the sport. The game is now more about the batting average than the fun in either chasing targets or not letting chase targets. Is it wrong? Are spectators’ expectations wrong? No, because they are in dearth of perhaps the most important thing: time!

My two cents worth of thought? I have always been a believer of that “old-school” thought that even pleasure must be earned, and Test Cricket, as a format, lets you do just that: Five days; close to 540 balls to be faced per day; scorching heat (or varying temperatures, in some cases); and test of patience for players from both the sides – now I know how it got its name. It just can’t get more demanding than that.

But, like I said before, it is the momentous pleasure that most of us seek today. All they care is about shouting out loud as they see the cricket ball being batted out of the bounds. All they seek is the “unearned” pleasure in the batter’s eyes for taking a hit at (pun intended) whatever comes. Is there even a technique in situations that already have your adrenaline pumped up? If you think so, I’d choose to differ.

For a player (doesn’t matter who they are, a batter, a bowler, or one of the umpires), the test cricket is the ultimate test of their physical and mental strength. It is only when they burn themselves on the hard pitches that they truly earn their pleasure –the true spirit of the game. It is like the rare encounter where you enjoy the journey as much as the destination. It is but pity that the spectators only seldom get the true feel of the game.

That is why I think we must celebrate this milestone; We really must. Also because this is time when we make a conscious choice: Of either preserving the soul of Cricket or moving on! Though I really like to watch Cricket, and that I will continue to watch whatever format they choose to play, I will continue to have my reservations in favor of my thought. Call me an “old school” guy.

Each format has its own good thing. And, every match is going to end in a result. But, that anticipation, constant engagement, and hard work in “earning” the pleasure will always be of the utmost importance to me, even though I will be one of those “poor” spectators who would never really get to “feel” the game. Even though I will continue to enjoy the new formats of the game, I will continue to have reservations for the “test” cricket. Howzat!

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