Follow The Trace | T20 hitting Test cricket for six
The Jamaican leg of the 2016 season of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 cricket competition is in full swing. As expected, the vibe, the energy, the support, and the atmosphere surrounding the games have been incredible.
On match days, Sabina Park is transformed into a sea of nationalistic fervour and exuberance. it's one of those few occasions when one gets the sense that Jamaicans of every colour, class, and creed are simply Jamaicans united in the support of a Jamaican team.
A stark reminder to anyone who needs it is that Twenty20 cricket is sweeping across the Caribbean and indeed the world like a category five hurricane, with its main casualties being the vulnerable longer versions of the game and especially Test cricket.
As fate would have it, the West Indies Test team will concurrently face India right here in the Caribbean even as the CPL continues to sizzle. Perhaps by some divine convergence of circumstances, the CPL and the India Test series are being played at the same time, providing a platform and an opportunity to view from close range the glaring disparity between the two formats of the game in terms of popularity and relevance in the region; and will lead to an honest acceptance of where we are relative to the rapid evolution of the game of cricket.
SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS
The vast, enthusiastic, and patriotic crowds continue to fill the cricket stadia across the region - living the experience and being part of the colour and spectacle of the CPL - while the projection for the Test series is that again, it will be the proverbial man and his dog who will have thousands of empty seats to choose from as the Indians are expected to brush aside the young and largely experimental West Indies unit in what should, by all indications, be an uninteresting no-contest.
Not even the most loyal cricket purist can ignore the stark and instructive reality of what is being revealed in this inevitable comparison. One hopes that it will at least help us collectively to better shape the future of our cricket.
Lurking in the backdrop of the gulf in popularity of these two formats is also the recent success of the region's men and women teams, which are currently both world champions in the T20 format.
Success breeds success, and with the region boasting not just the world champion teams, but also some of the premier superstars of the T20 game - with the likes of Chris Gayle , AndrÈ Russell, Sunil Narine, Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy, Kraigg Brathwaite, and on the women's side Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin, and Hayley Matthews, just to name a few, it remains difficult or near impossible to find Caribbean stars of even remotely similar status in the Test format.
The signs are getting louder and clearer that T20 is on the rise, while test cricket is dying. What is perhaps not as loud, but is an equally poignant reality, is the emerging fact that both these formats will not reign as the premier formats of the game at the same time. Something will have to give, and the fact of the matter is that Test cricket continues to be the one to give.
We obviously cannot completely abandon the Test game as per the stipulations of the International Cricket Council, but at least we can begin to be honest with ourselves.