There are those who believe the devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. I disagree. I reckon the devil’s greatest trick was Twenty20 cricket.
Last night I watched a replay of New Zealand’s victory over India from Wellington. A meaningless match in a format I pretend to dislike, between two teams about which I couldn’t give a monkey’s cuss. But a match-winning innings by Brendon McCullum, an aggressive Indian bowling attack prompting a late Kiwi collapse, and a victory coming on literally the last ball of the match meant I was enthralled.
Today I am watching the England / West Indies Test from Barbados. I am delighted to say that, in direct comparison, it is splendidly dull. This illustrates perfectly the dilemma in cricket between the traditionalist and the moderniser.
The moderniser will tell you that Test cricket is long-winded, intricate to the point of incompehension, and virtually inpenetrable to the non-believer. Cricket must, they will argue, adapt to survive in the new era of multi-channel, low-attention-span, red-buttonness. If cricket is to succeed in attracting a new generation of supporters, they will protest, it must “give the fans what they want.”
I, however, find myself in the camp of the traditionalist. The beauty of cricket lies in its intricacy. No other game can possibly spend so long discussing small variations in the atmospheric moisture levels.
I also believe that Test cricket is long-winded, intricate to the point of incompehension, and virtually inpenetrable to the non-believer. But that’s the way I like it. I love the fact that Nasser Hussain and Michael Holding can talk uninterupted for fifteen minutes about the condition of one side of the ball without once mentioning the international sport going on in front of them. And they can do that whilst missing absolutely nothing.
A game that takes five days to play out requires a level of commitment and concentration in the viewer that is sorely lacking in this day and age. Casual observers need not apply.
If you want bitesize entertainment, I recommend a Milky Way. Twenty20 is not what the fans want, it is what the fans deserve.