Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Tony Becca: Cricket for everyone

Published:Sunday | May 8, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Brian Lara

There are, lately, three kinds of cricket around. There is the Twenty20 (T20) cricket of 2003, then there is the one-day cricket of around the late 1960s, and there is the traditional Test cricket, which has been going on almost forever, since 1877.

First, Test cricket, or five-day cricket, was the order of the day, then the limited-over cricket. One-day cricket came on the scene to save the game, and then, so it was said, as soon as the one-day cricket appeared to have lost its appeal, T20 cricket arrived to do the same, to save the game also.

T20 cricket was founded by an Englishman who, in the depths of winter and thinking about "the man and his dog" at county matches during the days of summer, thought of a way of getting fans through the gates in the coming summer.

He came up with playing cricket after work for three hours, and it would be, must be, fun cricket, played in an atmosphere made for fun, with emphasis on the players hitting the ball far and often from start to finish, with the bowlers being present simply for the batsmen's pleasure, and with the fans expected to pay a small entry fee for the entertainment while standing and having a drink or two.

 

IMMEDIATE SUCCESS

 

It was an immediate success, and I remember going from London to Birmingham in the summer of 2004 to see the final and to have a day-out.

It was a lovely day. Edgbaston was filled to capacity. I met some old friends. We talked cricket sometimes, we looked at the cricket sometimes, and we ordered a drink most of the time.

Little did we know that T20 cricket was here to stay and, regardless of what the cricket bosses say, and keep saying, it is here to threaten the survival of the limited-over game and the longer and traditional Test cricket.

And it is now played, not for fun, not for saving the game, but for the money it pulls in.

A Test series usually lasted for eight to ten weeks, during which time five Test matches plus county or state matches were played, and a Test match lasted five days, and sometimes they finished without a result.

Test cricket continues to be played in white clothing, and today, it is still considered a gentleman's game, where you sit and have lunch and tea and conduct yourself in a polite manner. The basics of the game are rigidly technical, where a flowing cover-drive, or a tight and studious defence, is one of its creed, or one of its commandments.

Those, like me, who defend Test cricket or one-day cricket as their preference, are referred to as old, or as coming from the Dark Ages. They are told to adapt to the times, to make the necessary changes, and to come into today's world.

But why do they have to conform? Can't they still love the game for what attracted them to the game so many years ago?

They love the game for what it was, for what it was intended to be, and for what it tries to be: a passion, a classical experience of a flowing cover-drive, a tantalising leg-spinner, a game which moves between fast and slow, pleasantly through the notes, somewhat like a good musician in action while playing some good music, up and down the scale, with the result, the win, a loss, or a draw, sometimes, most times, a drama, unknown right up to the end.

T20 cricket is for immediate satisfaction. Test cricket is longer, much longer, and calls for patience and understanding. In terms of leisure and skill, it is like golf, which is played over four days, all day, and whoever likes it makes it to the course every day with no complaints.

Maybe the difference is that one is for the working class, which needs money to survive, and one is perceived by the poor as being basically for the rich, or the well-to-do, and which hardly needs the people's money to survive.

The cricket clubs, especially in this country, and countries like this one, are almost empty shells, void of people, and lacking in everything. The golf clubs, on the other hand, are pristine palaces, nice and shiny, tucked away in prized locations, and full of life.

 

ADVERTISEMENTS

 

Everything is done to market T20 cricket. The television screens and the newspapers are flooded with pre-tournament advertisements, and whenever it comes around, the players are dressed in colourful garments, the rules are changed so as to make the game more attractive for those who like non-stop action.

Every shot, every ball, every bit of fielding, regardless of how they appear, is followed by extravagant and flowery descriptions as the commentators describe the action in T20 cricket. "Oh my. What a shot. That ball is on the way to Mars."

In terms of delivery to the fans, T20 cricket is marketed and promoted and delivered differently to how limited-over cricket and definitely to how Test cricket are marketed and promoted.

Cricket is cricket, money is money, T20 cricket, up to now, is money, and nothing is wrong with that.

I love T20 cricket because of its excitement and its rambunctious hitting, but I prefer limited-over cricket, and I have a passion for Test cricket, where, to me, the best of cricket is played. The cover-drive, the extra-cover drive, the on-drive, and the late-cut, the leg-spinner, the googly, and the screaming bouncer are things of beauty, and skill.

I love Test cricket because of the prolonged battle between bat and ball, a battle that may last beyond four overs.

Today is "modern times", but the world, with its daily dose of terrorism, among other things, is not what it used to be, neither are other things of the past what they used to be.

I love Test cricket, and I will always remember the sight of Frank Worrell batting. I loved also to see batsmen like Everton Weekes, Rohan Kanhai, and Garry Sobers, Alvin Kallicharran and Lawrence Rowe, Viv Richards and Brian Lara of yesterday bat, just as how as I enjoyed Jeffrey Dujon batting, and Marlon Samuels, as he did in the T20 final, and Chris Gayle, and Virat Kohli, and Joe Root's batting throughout the tournament.

Everything is better today, it is said, but while I agree that most things are better, that cars are faster, I still remember and long for some of things of the past, of my earlier days.