Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Ends of 2 Cricketing Eras

Shortly I'll switch on the TV to watch South Africa finish off Australia in the cricket. This will be Australia's first test series defeat at home since 1993, and South Africa have been pretty dominant so far. It's clear that Australia have lost their position as the top ranked team in test cricket, when you also consider their recent series loss in India.

Looking at the bigger picture, this might be one of the last times that test (5 day) cricket attracts much attention. The shortened Twenty20 (T20) game is taking over cricket in terms of television coverage and advertising, reflecting the fact that most people would rather watch a game lasting 3 hours than one lasting 35 hours.* Now the best young players are following the money and joining the lucrative Indian T20 league before they even come close to playing in their national test teams.

In the near future the best batsmen will concentrate on the quick, aggressive batting needed for T20 cricket, and neglect the patient, defensive batting that wins test matches. Meanwhile bowlers will focus on bowling accurately under the tight restrictions of one day games and won't work on the bouncers or wider deliveries that are permitted and necessary in five day games. Test cricket will soon be a secondary form of the game, populated by players who didn't succeed in the T20 leagues.

The ugly Australian supporter in me is amused to see South Africa take over the top spot just as test cricket becomes irrelevant. However it is poignant to think that this might be the final time that such a handover even matters much. I'll have to head out to the Sydney Cricket Ground next week to see if Australia can avoid the whitewash. Anyone else interested in seeing one of the last great test series?

*30 hours if you don't count the lunch and tea breaks.

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