Test cricket is at a fragile juncture in its history. There is no doubt that Twenty20 is having an immense impact on the sport, however the major television rights deals, worth more than $1 billion each, are now for Twenty20 series formats such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Champions League Tournament and the International Cricket Council events, which includes the ICC World Twenty20. On the visage of it, the money is decent news for cricket, but there is a chief disadvantage. The fixture list has become ever more jam-packed and top players are opting for the money-spinning Twenty20 matches first. With the apparent T20 rage, concerns have risen that the longer form of the game would be squeezed out.
Players like Chris Gayle proclaimed that he “wouldn’t be so sad if Test cricket died out”. This leads us to the debate whether T2O domination is a threat to the oldest form of the game-Test cricket. Test cricket is like an art film which typically uses lesser-known film actors and modest sets to make films which emphasize on developing well written plot, intense characters whilst T20 is more like a mainstream masala movie with a hefty production budget, expensive special effects, full-on action, pricey celebrity actors and massive advertising campaigns.
Many former players like Michael Holding and Richard Hadley have voiced their concern that t20 may destroy the traditional test cricket. They believe that it’s novel, profitable, thriving and brings in enormous income. But the excess of it may inundate other forms of the game. Former West Indian captain and cricketing marvel, Clive Lloyd proclaimed that atrocious twenty 20 money endangered test cricket. Quoting the exemplar of the current West Indies team which is good in Twenty20 but has been under attack in Tests, Lloyd was of the view that the massive amount of money being paid in lucrative T20 tournaments is upsetting the time-honored format of the game.
We can say without disagreement that Test cricket is a better-off form of the game. One can have a fondness for Test cricket and still see the worth in the other formats of the game. And even if one favors Twenty20 to all cricket forms, it cannot be argued with the fact that Test cricket is more intricate, richer and deeper. A good score in a test match is always the most rewarding innings of a player’s career. He finds in himself the qualities of perseverance, stamina, concentration, discipline – in batting for longer hours and loads of minutes with barely a loose shot.
And this is what the Test cricket has to offer and the shorter forms don’t. Tests last longer. Assessment of character is more measured and more thorough. Although I completely agree that huge skill levels are needed to succeed in T20, recently in a match in Champions League, David Warner put up an amazing display of power-hitting. He made 135 not out off 69 balls which shows that batting in a t20 is not everyone’s cup of tea. But the point is that Test cricket is also about the mental side. Moreover, Test cricket has no limitations; the shorter forms have rules on field placements and on the number of overs a bowler can bowl. By characterization, Test cricket has more variation.
One-day cricket and Twenty20 were intended for instantaneous drama. Test cricket brings drama in a less rigid way. Like any epic entertainment, full-blown Test cricket varies in tone and tempo. Do I need to mention the anxiety and the sheer exhilaration of a test match which enters the 5th day, where more than one result is probable? It could be a team chasing a firm target, with the bowling side also in hound to get all 10 wickets, or it could be a bowling team on peak looking to get the opponent out, but the batting side battling for survival and playing for a draw — the tension, the thrill is often incredible.
Many supporters of t20 cricket propose that the format has regenerated interest in the game. But, and here is the vital part, cricketing authorities must make sure the Test format benefits significantly from this growth. I think that cricket’s authorities have to be innovative – and proactive – in introducing the Test game to the next generation. Many people even float the proposal of a quadrennial Test cricket World Cup as a way of enlivening global interest in the format. If Test cricket is the brand of cricket we want people to identify the game by then we have to put a slight more money into it so players are better paid.
Lastly, I would point to a problem that bothers a lot of cricket purists. Where are the youngsters going to come from to play Test cricket? Today we see the young guns that just come and try to hit, it’s not the game we know since decades. I am not asking to stop Twenty20; my point is that the format should not be promoted at the cost of the Test cricket. There should not be an unhealthy contest between the formats. The challenge for administrators is to get that equilibrium so that all can coexist jointly. If players and spectators start turning their backs on Test cricket that would be a great disgrace. This is because Test cricket can deliver what no other team sport can: drama to absorb us for a couple of months on end.