I’m beginning to rather like this Virat Kohli chap.
Not just because his batting prowess in all formats of the game has been wonderful to behold for some years now. Not even because I have grown to respect his increasingly discerning captaincy. And no, it’s not because he and his fellow India players have just given Australia a damned good beating in their own backyard Down Under. Ok, it was only a 2-1 margin of victory in the end, but the four-match Test series would almost certainly have finished 3-1 but for some inclement Sydney weather. (Perish the thought, mind you, that there should be any schadenfreude hovering in the air while discussing Australian noses being ground into their own dirt.)
No, what I’m truly thankful to Kohli for is the manner in which he so conspicuously champions the status of Test cricket over and above white-ball cricket in its various guises. Last summer, on the tour to England, the India captain referred to Test cricket as “the most beautiful format of the game” while in Sydney, immediately after India’s series win against Australia (did I mention that India beat Australia?), he said: “We definitely want to build on this and always promote the message of Test cricket being the most important and the most valued format of the game, which it rightfully is.”
Cricket administrators around the world should heed Kohli’s words. And especially since it could be that Twenty20 cricket – and shorter versions thereof – has already plateaued. There were plenty of empty seats at last year’s IPL while the current Big Bash League in Australia, which has been unnecessarily bloated by extra fixtures and an extended timetable (and an increasing lack of “star appeal”, given that Australia’s Test cricketers do not participate in it and marquee overseas signings are becoming endangered species), has been notable for its smaller attendance figures and oh-so-pedestrian action on the field of play. Killing the goose that laid the golden egg and all that.
The real excitement in Australia in recent weeks has been provided in the Test arena by Kohli and his cohorts – players such as Cheteshwar Pujara, whose three gloriously determined centuries were pivotal to India’s success, and Jasprit Bumrah, whose explosive fast bowling had Australia’s fallible batting line-up rocking on its heels.
Rather than introducing spurious white-ball tournaments, like the utterly wretched “Hundred”, at the height of the English summer at the expense of the county championship or overseeing the gradual emasculation of the Sheffield Shield in Australia, governing bodies should be doing all they can to put the first-class game at the very heart of their domestic calendars to help protect the future of Test cricket.
Governing bodies around the world can also help themselves by putting Test cricket on free-to-air television if it’s not already. And, while we’re at it, they should forthwith reduce the entrance fees for Test cricket. Open the gates! And let the people flood in to see “the most beautiful format of the game”.
Photograph by https://www.flickr.com/photos/pushkarv/–