TEST cricket is a contest between two nations, or, in the case of the West Indies, a group of countries playing as one under the banner of Cricket West Indies. It takes place over five scheduled days, although it can end in less time. It is the test between two teams to prove which is the stronger in a series of matches.
It is the true indication of the capability of cricket teams worldwide that reveals the structure of a nation’s cricket, its organisation, its strength and ability, evaluated by the skill and aptitude of the teams they choose to represent them.
To achieve at this level, therefore, countries need to have proper training programmes to develop cricketers, to have them attain the standard required to compete successfully at this level.
The nature of the game is such that, to conquer your opponent one must prove one’s superiority by being able to bowl them out twice for fewer runs than one has scored. It means ripping out 20 wickets in two innings. No mean feat.
However, that achievement proves the worth of the winning team, because it takes courage, determination, plus skill and endurance, with a dose of confidence and cricket intelligence. Also, of course, it doesn’t end there, with one game; indeed, to prove competence there is a series of two, three, four or five matches.
The essence of cricket is in the character of its players. Hence, the culture of the country in which a cricketer develops will determine how he approaches the game, while the central focus is on the personality of the player.
Generally speaking, the West Indian is the most attractive cricketer because of the way he plays the game. He’s very popular, so although WI might be doing badly in world tournaments, their players still command high prices in the lucrative leagues, especially the most well-paid, the Indian Premier League.
Can we discern something in that? Maybe in our unity or leadership qualities on and off the field, maybe in our administration of the sport? All difficult questions to answer. However, international talent scouts know their oats and sign up a number of Caribbean cricketers to represent their franchises.
Nevertheless, our cricketers are not going to maintain their attraction unless they are prepared to play first-class cricket, a two-inning affair usually played over three or four days.
This is the cradle in which classic cricketers develop their tactical acumen and strategic balance. Without this learning curve, they would not complete their cricket knowledge or gain the stern mental requirements of the sport.
There is great contentment and joy in earning huge amounts of money in the T20 leagues, but it would not compensate for the pleasure and satisfaction of representing one’s nation. And both can be done. If one is willing.
Test cricket has never been about money, but pride, love of the art of the game, and love for country. It’s a player’s game; it’s an art form in which he expresses himself. In the past, in all countries, cricket administrators depended on sponsors to compete with other nations to see which was the best in cricket. In those days cigarette and alcohol companies got in line to associate with a sporting event. Now, they’re banned.
Recently, I read in an interview by a former Test player that Test cricket is heading for extinction. I can’t agree with this point of view or reasoning. Maybe, in the WI, if the administrators don’t act on developing top-class cricketers, it could very well mean the end of that format in the Caribbean.
Observing two Test matches over the last weekend, one in St Lucia between WI and Bangladesh, the other between New Zealand/England at Headingley, the numbers of spectators at the grounds were completely opposite. In England, there were huge crowds every day for the third Test in a dead rubber, while in the WI, the numbers could’ve been counted on the fingers of one hand.
I’ll admit that NZ are the world champions in Test cricket. Nonetheless, they lost the first two Tests in a three-match series, yet they attracted a sell-out crowd.
WI won the first Test of a two-match series and nobody turned up for either? Shocking.
Maybe Test cricket will become extinct in the WI, but not in England, India, Australia and other Test-playing nations where there are those who understand and love Test cricket, appreciating the true test of a cricketing nation and its cricketers.