For any serious cricket enthusiast, Rahul Dravid was always a treat to watch over the 22 yards. On Monday, the world discovered, or re-discovered, that when Dravid speaks cricket, it’s as gorgeous as his square cuts, crisp and to the point.
“Cricket’s world, and I’m not talking merely economics here, is flatter than we think,” Dravid said during his speech at ESPNcricinfo For Cricket Summit, at The Oval, London.
He concluded with “I hope I’ve sparked off some debate and some ideas”. He did. Read onů
The following are excerpts
Crisis in Test cricket
While Test cricket has proved its resilience over a century and is a tough old dog, we must understand that no matter what the crises past, it has reached a fairly critical point in its history.
The less Test cricket is played, the greater the gap in its standards as we are now beginning to witness around the world. It is almost as if there are two divisions of Test-playing nations these days.
When teams from the two divisions meet for a series, the cricket is fairly one-sided, tepid. At the turn of the century, divisions between Test nations all told, were not quite so stark as they are now.
We are living in an age of short attention spans, instant gratification and the expectation that we will get all the answers to all the questions in 140 characters.
What is most key here, is that T20 has brought greater numbers through the gates and increased ticket sales. All of this is good. More cricketers have a chance to make a living from the sport, the audience numbers are up, T20 is perhaps the most reliable source for increased revenues all around in our sport.
Ill-effects of T20s
The T20 ecosystem is a hard one to ignore and its impact has been far-reaching throughout the game. Yet what has also been happening in the same period since the growth of T20 has been its ripple effect on Test cricket, and down the ranks, into how the game is understood interpreted and taught.
The T20 format has, for the first time since its inception, begun to seep into the international calendar, which is a dangerous trend.
Test cricket’s relevance to T20s
I believe the importance and vitality of Test cricket, even in an era of short-attention spans, is more self-evident than we can initially recognise. Test cricket — while the pinnacle of the longest form of the game — is also its fundamental starting point, the ABC of the game, if you like.
Test cricket, an older, larger entity is the trunk of a tree and the shorter game — be it T20 or ODIs — are its branches, its offshoots. Now to be fair, it is the branches that carry the fruit, earn the benefits of the larger garden or orchard in which they stand and so catch the eye.
T20 needs Test cricket to retain its diversity and depth of skill, which is one of the game’s most attractive features. I don’t think T20 is a scourge on the game, but I don’t think it’s cricket’s lone lifesaver, either.
We must find a way to keep each of the three forms of the game viable and relevant.
If that means reworking how first-class and Test players can be out on more lucrative contracts, let's get the accountants on this. If it means playing day-night cricket, we must give it a try, keep an open mind.
Significance of the game
Cricket also gives a cricketer, over and over again, lessons in humility. That life is not all about having gifts.
Gary Kirsten always said to me that Test cricket was a multi-dimensional church — it gave everyone a chance to bring out their best. That best didn’t have to mean the best shots, or the best eye, it could have meant the ability to work hard to polish what you had.
The Oval memories
It’s good to be here at The Oval, the venue of what I would like to think of one my most notable achievements as an Indian cricketer. I’m not referring to the unforgettable 12 runs off 96 balls over two hours and 20 minutes in 2007. The reason there are such good memories about The Oval is because of what followed later: we set England 500 to win, which proved too much in those days.
The Test was drawn but India won the series, its first series win in England in 21 years. As captain, I remember sitting next to Tiger Pataudi along with the rest of the team, on the steps of our dressing room, posing for photographs with the Pataudi Trophy.