After three days of trying local food in Ahmedabad — I am just about done. The Jumbo Dabeli ordered from a local “snacks” place was the last straw. Was this a case of a burger that accidentally fell in ketchup? Or was it a chaat that got squished between two breads? Perhaps all this would have been fine had it not been for the sweet and sour tears of the English at Motera. Or was it the sweet and sour tears of the English from Motera?
This is not the kind of pitch I usually talk about. A pitch for me typically means 45 mind-numbing minutes explaining what I do for the umpteenth time. But this one was special. For all the wrong reasons.
I traveled to Ahmedabad from Delhi just to watch the third Test match between England and India. Not for a day or two. For four whole days. Day two to Day five. I wondered/figured what’s the worst that could/can happen.
We’ll put out a spinning pitch. The match will see a few good knocks from the Indian batsmen. The English will struggle but they’ll persevere. The match will end in maybe three and a half or four days. At worst, it’ll end in three days. That’s two days of good Test cricket. Worth it, given these are two of the best Test teams in the world.
It took all of one and a half days for the match to finish. Just five sessions [note: a little over five sessions]. Given that I wasn’t around for day one, I got to see two sessions. Two sessions out of a possible 12. About 17% of what I could’ve seen. Not even a quarter. Thankfully, at least the lights came on.
As a tech entrepreneur, I sell software for a living. If my software worked only 17% of the time, we would be out of business in the time it took another hapless English batsman to walk off the ground looking bored and dejected.
The post-match squabble has lasted way more than five sessions. There is intense debate around whether this was a good or bad pitch. As if we needed another issue to stoke the nationalist in us. Look, I haven’t played Test matches. Not sure if I am the right adjudicator when experts from all sides have weighed in. But I am certain that it was a horrible advertisement for Test cricket.
I don’t usually travel for games of any kind. This was the first time I flew to another city exclusively for a Test match. The Australian Test series woke up the long slumbering Test match fan in me.
The quick adrenaline rush of T20 isn’t for me. I love the slow psychological thriller that Test matches can be. One fluke doesn’t win you the game. You have to be better consistently over days, over 100s of balls.
The Australia Test series was just the advertisement that the dying art of Test cricket needed. What an incredible David-Goliath contest. We showed that we could win with our backs to the wall. We showed that our A side could beat the best attack in the world on the toughest of cricket grounds. We seemed ready to aim for greatness. We could be the new Invincibles. And then this? Why exactly did it have to come down to this?
But then “who defines what is a good pitch” as Ashwin Ravichandran asked. Dear Sir – it’s not the experts, the journalists or even the current players. It’s the fans who decide what is a good pitch. A “good pitch” produces entertaining cricket. Cricket is after all entertainment. And this wasn’t an example of entertaining Test cricket.
Maybe experts and players should take a moment to think of the fans. Professional sport is played for the entertainment of fans. It’s one of the reasons why T20s are so much in vogue. They consistently deliver what they promise: a good three-hour break from life. Or take football for that matter. How many games would you watch if football games ended in 25 mins with a team winning 8-0 cause the pitch was covered in sand?
Will I make so much effort to watch a Test match in India again? I am not sure. Maybe in Australia or England when I can afford it. Or maybe I’ll do it for the entertainment of my colleagues and friends. They can’t stop enjoying my agony.
The writer is co-founder of Elucidata, a drug discovery start-up. He enjoys running and reading. He aspires to dump his thoughts to paper often.
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