Wednesday 5 September 2012 

Comment: Twenty20 Can Never Replace Test Cricket

Comment: Twenty20 Can Never Replace Test Cricket
Comment: Twenty20 Can Never Replace Test Cricket
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

The ICC World Twenty20 2012 is fast approaching and no doubt fans will flock to Sri Lanka and TV audiences will be glued to the screens as the best cricket nations clash in the shortened format of the game.

It is obvious to see why Twenty20 is an attractive form of the game for spectators. The limited overs format encourages attacking batting and consequently brings about a range of attacking strokes and regular wickets.

Powerful hitters such as Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen and Richard Levi have quickly become the biggest names in Twenty20 reflecting the benefits of this format for the batsman. The draw of Twenty20 for spectators has proven lucrative for cricket; the establishment of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has enabled cricketers to earn salaries rivalling that of premier league footballers.

The IPL has caused issues in international cricket because of clashes with series on the international calendar. Players are therefore forced to choose between representing their nation and earning the big bucks playing T20 in the IPL. Initially there was some speculation that the emergence of T20 marked the death of Test cricket as fewer Test matches would be played in order to play more international T20 matches, which are more spectator friendly and more lucrative.

Thankfully though, T20 has emerged as a major part of international cricket, it has not replaced the Test match as the pinnacle of the game because Test match cricket offers so much more than T20 ever could.

Test Matches are literally a Test; they push the abilities of the batsmen, bowlers and fielders to the limits and offer the timescale for a great range of strategy and adaptability. There is nothing more magical in cricket then watching a batsman build a Test innings because he is tested to his limits and forced to demonstrate his adaptability. No doubt he will face seam bowling, spin, the new ball, the older ball and a range of weather conditions.

Couple this with having to maintain concentration for hours on end and you have the greatest test of a batsman in cricket, and it is glorious to watch. The same is true for a bowler; over the five days they must fight against a changing pitch, deteriorating cricket balls and the strains of bowling on the body.

As for a batsman, a Test offers the bowler time to build a battle and take the time to execute this. The time on offer does not mean that Test match cricket offers no flair or excitability; the second England versus South Africa Test Match demonstrated that it can rival T20 for big hitting and entertainment.

For the spectator Test match cricket offers far more than just a cricketing spectacle; in this sense a Test could be compared to a multi-layered novel. For the spectator at the ground there is a day’s cricket coupled with a full day of eating the traditional mixture of pork pies and crisps, the fun games the crowd plays when the cricket is slightly less exciting such as Mexican waves, pint glass towers and the joys of Test match fancy dress.

Every spectator will come away with an amusing story to tell which typically has nothing to do with the cricketing action; my own highlights include the entire crowd standing up to sing ‘Men of Harlech’ as a Zulu warrior walked past at an England versus South Africa Test match and a man dressed as the Grim Reaper leaning over to tap an elderly sleeping man on the shoulder with his scythe, much to the old chap’s surprise.

For the television or radio spectator the spectacle is no less multi-faceted; Test Match cricket becomes a part of your life for five days. Though there is no obligation to focus your entire attention on the match for the duration, the longer form of the game is perfect to drop in and out of but nevertheless offers the excitement of checking the cricket score every hour or so.

Then there is Test Match commentary, this is extremely special and unique though may appear pointless and irrelevant to non-cricket fans. In no other sport do the commentators so often drift away from reporting the action to have private discussions and tell anecdotes. Without Test Match commentary we would miss out on hearing about Tuffer’s race horse, Botham’s fishing/drinking escapades and Bumbles general forays around the country.

Though we look forward to the ICC World Twenty20 championships 2012 for the big hitting and edge of your seat moments, and celebrate the money which T20 has brought into the sport, there is no question that T20 can never replace Test Match cricket as the pinnacle of the game because Test Match cricket offers multi-layered entertainment and is the greatest expression of cricketing skill and ability.

John Pryor

© Cricket World 2012

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