TODAY is the fifth and final day of the second cricket Test between Australia and the West Indies and I am watching the final session as I write this. I have been watching, and listening to the game on radio, since I was 10 years old and I will probably be fascinated by it till I die.
The West Indies, surprisingly, have had the better of the exchanges in this game, after losing the first Test in three days.
Test cricket is a slow game and has always been so. Yet it has been made progressively slower over the years by the disgusting tactics adopted by players and the inability or refusal of umpires to reel them in.
Take the ongoing game. The post-lunch session on the final day began two minutes late. When tea-time was reached, the umpires took up position for one more over. The two Australian batsmen started walking off – they were trying to save the match. The umpires said nothing. One over was lost.
There are a hundred similar things that happen during a game – players wasting time during an over, between overs, calling for drinks at any time they feel like, captains talking to bowlers again and again about field settings, and on and on and on.
The teams are required by the playing terms and conditions to bowl 90 overs a day. That works out to 4 minutes for an over – one hell of a lot of time. A fast bowler should have no problem getting through six balls in that time.
Yet no team bowls 90 overs in a day. Play always goes on for the extra half-hour that is allowed if needed but even after 6½ hours, the number of overs bowled is always short of 90.
The paying public have their own lives to lead. They are expected to spend an extra 30 minutes at the game – and that means 2½ hours for the duration of a Test – and yet not get the full value they have paid for.
And the folk who run the game are surprised that the public are losing interet in Test cricket!
The administrators of the game – the International Cricket Conference – are more interested in coming up with gimmicks to retain public interest in the game. They are a bunch who have little interest in the game apart from the money – and it’s a lot of money – that they gain by being involved.
Now that the ICC is headquartered in that dodgiest of places, Dubai, it means that income is tax-free.
The West Indies, the top team in the game during the 1980s and 1990s, has fallen away and become a joke but the ICC has never thought about funding some kind of programme to ensure that the islands that make up the West Indies can run some kind of decent development plan to keep training cricketers.
As a result, many series are played between grossly mismatched teams and the public are expected to turn up and watch. The public come to see good performances but how can players who are turning up for games of all kinds – five-day, 50-over and 20-over – shine every time?
How can players who are not trained properly play the game at the level expected? Mediocrity rules – but there are TV commentators aplenty who hype up even this sad spectacle.
And the public are still expected to turn up, knowing fully well that overworked players will put in half-hearted performances simply because they have been playing too many games.
Even the ICC’s latest gimmick, the introduction of referrals to a TV umpire, so that a team can question two decisions per innings in a Test match, has been such a badly botched exercise that most of the players are already pissed off.
One umpire, Mark Benson, could not take the pressure of the players questioning his decisions and promptly left the ongoing second Test after one day of officiating.
Test cricket has no future and with the ICC in charge it is sure to die off in the next five years.