Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Will Test cricket pass the test?

Published:Tuesday | July 14, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Busta fire eaters light up Sabina Park during the CPL Twenty20 match against the Barbados Trident’s last Saturday.
Busta fire eaters light up Sabina Park during the CPL Twenty20 match against the Barbados Tridents last Saturday.
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My generation is very impatient. We like the microwave life of instant meals and instant gratification. I'm just the weather girl, with no sports authority, but from what I've observed, I'd say the forecast for Test cricket looks grim.

Work in a former life a decade ago required that I be at every match the West Indies played in Jamaica - be it Tests or one-dayers. For me, it was sometimes painful. I'm from a generation that doesn't have the emotional connection to the game I hear old folks talk about. My peers and I don't get excited by the gentlemanliness of the sport.

To watch men in white, cautiously and precisely knock around a ball for days on end was as exciting as watching paint dry. It was frustrating to see the ball travel halfway across the field and back and see only one run go up on the scoreboard.

Watching at home was worse. I got so annoyed when cricket was being played because it meant near a week's disruption of my favourite TV programmes. The most exciting part of the televised game was watching the occasional duck waddle across the screen. I just didn't get it.

Now, I go to Test cricket, but more so for the networking opportunities and the day out. I spend the days in cushy, air-conditioned corporate boxes with good food and interesting people. At close of play, most days I really couldn't tell you what the score was.

 

ingredient for successful spectator sport

 

A crucial ingredient for successful spectator sport is action. Fast-paced movement of players pulls you in to pay attention. It's the reason Jamaicans love track and field, and football, and even horse racing. The rush on the field imitates the excitement we feel watching. I never imagined cricket could ever do that.

And then came Twenty20, and I came alive. We all came alive.

There were no fewer than 15,000 people in Sabina Park on Saturday. I have never seen that turnout for Test cricket there. Ever.

One person was so excited by the whole experience she even commented how the ride on the JUTC bus between stadium and Sabina was a thrill. DJ Kurt Riley kept spirits high with music at every interval when a four or six was hit. And there were many of those; much more and closer together than in Tests. And with every swift swing of the bat, the crowd went wild.

The pace of the game is one inviting factor. The time of day and length of the game are another.

People work. I never understood who was expected to come watch a five-day-long, midweek game. It seemed to me elitist and off-putting, because unless you were going to skulk work and hide from the cameras, the average man couldn't up and leave the office and go see a Test match.

That left CEOs, retirees, kept wives and the unemployed (who couldn't afford the ticket prices, so scratch that group).

This series was way more practical. Matches were about four hours long and took place after work hours or on weekends. That's more inclusive - and that's why we had 15,000 strong out to see the matches live.

And although the Jamaica Tallawahs lost to The Barbados Tridents on Saturday, I still felt I got my money's worth - and had a great time.

So the future of Test cricket must be questioned. Today's fans aren't looking for the patience and prestige of the gentlemen's ballet. They want the players to put on a show. Less ballet and more Beenie Man.

Nothing is constant but change, and the need for change in Test cricket is evident, even to non-sporty me. Unless it wants to remain an old man's sport, the pace of cricket has to keep up.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns