Thursday, April 18, 2024

THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE: Goodbye, Test cricket


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KENSINGTON OVAL: The second cricket Test match, West Indies vs England. Within the first half-hour, West Indies are 25 for three: captain Jeff Stollymeyer is run out for a duck after he and J.K. Holt find themselves both at the south end of the pitch; dapper Frank Worrell, in classical style,  bat and pad together, is bowled comprehensively  by Brian Statham for a duck; and J.K. Holt edges  a Trevor Bayley outswinger to nonchalant  Tom Graveney at first slip.That event is permanently etched in the inner recesses of my memory since February 6, 1954.  I was 13.Clyde Walcott came in after Frank Worrell and dug in, with a young Bruce Pairaudeau, and stopped the rout. The Barbadian and the Guyanese put on 165 runs before Pairaudeau left for a stoic 71. By the end of that first day, Walcott was still there, at 147,  and went on to his highest test score of 220.Now, get this, and then LOL – laugh out loud.  West Indies won the match . . . on the sixth day!  There was even a rest day in between.Kensington Oval: Two weeks ago – and ending today – an apparition of the game just described returns to the same venue. We call it by the same name, while borrowing a term usually associated with perfect vision: 20/20. All I can remember about this two-week burlesque are some attractive young women wukkin’ up  in the broiling sun; Mac Fingall bawling all day into  a thousand-watt sound system; an exhausted Indian fan dozing off while Chris Gayle slogged sixes over the 3Ws Stand, and a black Barbadian cavorting around the stands dressed up as a green monkey.This, they tell me, is the future of cricket. At the expense of disturbing the tranquility of Morgan Lewis, I am not interested in that future. It’s for those with    the attention span of the female mosquito.In search of money and instant satisfaction, a game that once challenged the intellect of men and women (women have been playing Test cricket for decades), has been reduced to “Slam-bam, thank you ma’am”  and “Before I go, gimme my pay cheque”. The irony  is that the new version was also given birth where the old version originated: England.India, one of the emerging economic titans  of the world, has made a money tree out of the game  in its new and “exciting” format. Not all Indians are blown away by the razzamatazz, though. One of their outstanding stars, Mushtaq Mohammed, was heard  to observe: “Twenty20 cricket is harming cricket technically. Batting does not require any technique  and bowlers suffer even more, as their only priority  is to avoid being hit out of the ground. Fielding  is the only aspect that can benefit.”Another Indian, former fast bowler Khan Mohammad, reflecting on the long form, has said: “Cricket is the most intellectual of all the outdoor sports. It demands observation, calculation and judgment. It brings out qualities like courage, concentration, self-restraint and brotherly teamwork.”But they tell us that change must come;  and it must. But it serves us right, those of us who moan and groan of the new turn the game has taken. The long form of the game ought to have undergone change a long time ago.Here I recall the creativity of a simple gentleman from Carrington’s Village, near where I grew up.  The late Joe Connell took over the administration  of softball cricket and came up with a design which  I recall went like this: each side’s first innings compulsorily lasted, say, 20 overs; then the remainder of the match continued in its long form. This format usually made for more exciting finishes and the games usually did not drag on too long.A formula similar to that should have been adapted to all four-innings matches, up to Test cricket.Sadly, it’s too late. Goodbye, Test cricket.•Carl Moore was the first Editor  of THE NATION and is a social commentator.  Email


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