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I absolutely adore the game of cricket, and believe there’s nothing better than the longest format of the game. Some of my fondest memories as a teenager are lounging around in the sun for days on end with my mates, drinking cold beer and watching a Test match play out steadily.
The Beauty, and the Downfall, of Test Match Cricket
In my mind, Test match cricket was always all about the full experience.
If anything, it’s like fishing. You might head out on the water for 12 hours and catch three fish, but it’s still a great day out if you get to enjoy some sun, spend time with your boys and have a bit of good food. Sure, the action part is fantastic—there’s nothing better than reeling in a fish—but you’re not just there for action; you’re there for the full package, the overall experience of what fishing entails.
Much like Test match cricket, which might have some enthralling passages of play, but also may have extended periods where it’s an arm-wrestle with little happening externally.
The Challenges of a Digital World
The trouble is, in 2022, many people don’t have the patience for such nuanced, drawn out experiences.
When I explain to some of my non-cricket watching friends that there’s a version of the game which takes five days to play, their jaws inevitably drop open. In an age where TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts dominate the attention of most, the idea of nestling in and watching 30 hours of men wearing white pants and running around in a field is not particularly attractive.
It explains why Test cricket has been waning in popularity, and T20s—or even T10s and the Hundred—have been on the rise. People simply do not want to sit down and watch a sport where very little happens for hours on end.
Bazball to the Rescue – What Is Bazball?
That’s why the introduction of Bazball—England’s new exciting brand of Test cricket under the leadership of Brendon “Baz” McCullum and Ben Stokes—is lifeblood to the longest format of the game.
When Brendon McCullum took over the head coach role of England earlier this year, having never coaching Test cricket before and only recently having retired as New Zealand’s captain, he went on record making a bold statement: England were here to rescue Test cricket. Bold words for a man with zero experience coaching at this level.
And yet, he’s making good on his word so far. McCullum’s mandate to his players has been to go out and act like rockstars. Go out and entertain. It’s not just about playing cricket: It’s about playing cricket that people want to watch! That means that instead of playing defensive cricket and trying to preserve wickets, Bazball instructs players to prioritize scoring.
In a format where batsmen usually plod along at somewhere between 2-3 runs per over, England rocketed along at above seven runs per over in their latest Test match. They’ve been setting audacious fields, taking risks, and literally swinging for the fences in pursuit of victory. If there’s an opportunity to win a game but it might also mean losing, go for it. It’s better to lose trying to win, than to not try at all.
A Bright Future for Test Cricket
The result of Bazball has been a completely revitalised brand of cricket that is incredibly attractive to watch. On top of that, England isn’t lacking results either, with the team claiming eight wins from nine Test matches, having won one from seventeen prior to McCullum. That also includes sensational win over Pakistan in first test and another win against the same opponent in the second test.
This is what Test cricket needs. It won’t always lead to success for England, but it’s a win for the sport overall. Sure, the game still takes five days, but at least it’s five days of high octane competition, rather than dull arm-wrestling between timid men wearing white.
I’ll be watching regardless, but if McCullum and Stokes continue their revolution of Test cricket, I expect there will be a lot more joining me.