‘It’s the finest test of concentration and mental endurance in sport’ spout the defenders of Test cricket. It’s a good point, but should it also be a test of concentration and mental endurance for the paying spectator too? The biggest story on the final day of the 2nd Test in Lords was the ‘whodunnit?/whyyoudunnit?’ about who broke the glass in the England dressing room. Test cricket is some serious trouble because if it wasn’t for the incredible collapse of Sri Lanka in the last couple of hours of the 1st Test, we’d now be looking at 10 days of Test cricket and 2 draws and a whole lot of Sir Ian Botham subtly hinting at the fact he was a better player than anyone currently in the England team. Here’s a few uninteresting things that are still more interesting than Test cricket:
Any sport whereby you can follow text commentary and still feel like you’re not missing out on the experience of actually being there has some serious problems. And a rigorous following of cricinfo from your desk isn’t even essential to stay up to date with events that make snails look turbo-charged. Simply carry on doing your job and every couple of hours, check in to see how little the game has developed. Even when something does happen, the chances are you’ve got a good idea what happened without needing to see it. ‘Oh Pietersen out for 25 to the spinner. I wonder what ridiculous shot he threw his wicket away with this time? Probably the reverse slog back foot cut.’ Granted, a day of work doesn’t appeal to many, but take this quick test. Look around your office. Now imagine someone running up to your desk saying “I’ve got you a ticket for all five days of the 3rd Test – £200 please” Now think about the benefits of staying in work – getting paid; all the crap tea you can fit into your bladder; warmth; internet access; the non-mobile version of Facebook – the faint whiff of depression is almost worth hanging around for.
2. Summer Football Transfer Rumours
“Oh wow. Did you hear Wayne Rooney might be heading to Barcelona? All it needs for a deal to be done is Barcelona to make a suitable offer, Man Utd to accept that suitable offer, the player and his agent to hammer out terms with Barca, Rooney to find a house for his family and then relocate the family in a foreign country. They’re saying a deal could be done as soon as next January when he’ll only have five years left on his current contract” Yes football’s summer transfer rumours are tedious, but they’re bitesize tedious. You don’t need to invest 5 days into following them, you instantly know they’ll more than likely come to nowt and carry on living your life. So in short, minor football fantasies that will never come to pass are more interesting than Test cricket. Technically that makes Roy Of The Rovers more entertaining than the Ashes.
A quick look at the pavilion at Lords tells you all you need to know about the cosy relationship between cricket and sleep. Most members of the MCC you see at Lords on a Test day seem to treat the place as a halfway house between slumber and death. Enough independence not to be considered a nursing home, enough down-trodden staff to answer your every privileged beck and call – perfect. These men have reached a point in their lives where the amount of Viagra required to reach the state of arousal no longer makes an affair with a mistress economically viable. Instead, they don the crimson and gold tie, tell their butlers to tell their wives that they love them before spending the day getting liquored up on Pimms and bemoaning the fall of the Empire. Thankfully, if one does over-indulge, there’s always Alistair Cook’s incessant leaving of the ball to send you to sleep and bring you back to the level of sobriety where you’re aware that using the word ‘darkies’ is no longer acceptable. Outside of the privileged inner circle, when the cameras do pan across the masses at the various test venues, it’s not uncommon – in-between all the grown men randomly dressed up as superheroes and reject extras from the Rocky Horror Show – to find pockets of the crowd dozing their way through Matt Prior’s latest riveting 15 off 70 balls.
4. BBC Parliament
It’s no surprise Test cricket is the chosen sport of England’s political elite. The game’s natural rhythm fits perfectly with the life of an elected MP. A few days of leisurely ineffectual squabbling that concludes with no definite result punctuated by the scoffing of food and drink at someone else’s expense. Watching BBC Parliament, you may even see enough activity to trick you into thinking something interesting is about to happen, but after some slightly raised voices, the exchange of some polite indignation and some interference from a middle-aged man in a silly coat, order is restored and it turns out very little has changed – sound familiar to any cricketing formats? The good thing about politics watching is that when an elected official is exposed as being woefully ineffective and suspiciously poor at their job, they will eventually get turfed out. In cricket, all it means is you’re Ian Bell and one good score every couple of years is enough to cement your place at number 6.
5. Shopping For Bed Linen
I’m gone into minute detail about exactly what type of shopping is more interesting than Test cricket because on the whole, shopping isn’t all that bad. I would qualify this comparison with the caveat that it needs to be shopping for your own bed linen. Shopping for someone’s bed linen is in fact less interesting than watching Test cricket. At least when you’re shopping for yourself you know you’ll enjoy the benefits of new bed linen – namely fresh sheets free from the lingering whiff of body odour – at some point in the future. Shopping for bed linen is one of those dull and bizarrely time-consuming activities that you can’t avoid from time to time. It’s a bit like having to buy infrequently used household products. Like bleach – only that comparison is a little unfair on bleach because at least bleach carries with it the slight danger that it may be inadvertently fall into the wrong hands and be ingested by someone or – possibly worse – be used to give someone a terrible blonde hairstyle. Day 5 of the Test at Trent Bridge or an excursion to the bedroom section of Ikea? Pass me my walking boots – I’ve got an appointment with a Swedish meatball sub.
Is Test cricket dying on it’s arse?
Make the case for it in the comments section or alternatively, make your own suggestions about things that are more interesting than Test cricket.