The cricket series between England and India has been met with a number of articles espousing the virtues of Test cricket.
From one ageing man to another, accounts have been written of all-consuming love affairs for a game of rich history, endless variety, subtle tactics and melodic rhythm. There is something undeniably pure about a gentleman’s love for cricket - she is the classic beauty many men never tire of.
However, my feelings towards Test cricket aren’t blinded by an old fashioned love. Test cricket cannot simply woo me with its history or traditional charms. In fact, after a bit of a think, I have come to the conclusion I hate cricket almost as much as I love it.
While watching England play Sri Lanka at Lord’s a few weeks ago, I was struck by two thoughts. Firstly, the day had become decidedly more enjoyable after the first bottle of wine was opened and, secondly, how absolutely nothing seemed to be happening. It was the second day (or maybe the third) and not one wicket fell.
I remember looking at the ant-sized players and listening to the sound of gentle applause trickle around the terraces. I also remember that, when I finally struggled out of my seat to leave, I desperately wanted to be attending the next day of play.
I was adamant I had attended the boring chapter of the book and that the match would reach a dramatic crescendo tomorrow. It wasn’t fair I had gone through the pain only for someone tomorrow to get the pleasure.
But with cricket there are no guarantees, and I think this is why I love Test cricket. There’s no other sport on earth that reflects the dichotomy of life – the highs and the lulls – quite so succinctly.
I endure cricket much like I endure life. Cricket echoes the daily grind. As Stuart Broad begins his long run towards the crease, I find myself on the daily commute to Hyde Park Corner.
As Broad slowly turns from the wicket to walk back to where he came from, I leave Hyde Park Corner on my way home. The cycle repeats. Broad bowls again. We enter the office once more. Until something shakes us out of this routine. Broad bowls Tendulkar. We get a pay rise. Broad is hit for six. We lose our cat.
In cricket, the spectator has to battle through the lulls to deserve the action. With sessions as full of boredom as brilliance, only the patient few remain. This is why cricket has always attracted the wise old owls of society with sports commentators quick to pull out lines of poetry or classic quotes when dissecting the sport.
This is also why the gentlemen are right when they say we should not let Test cricket die. But it is the sport’s humanity we should be protecting rather than its quintessential Englishness.
Test cricket teaches us the importance of patience. In our technology-obsessed, information-overloaded and individualistic society, morals can be learnt from Test cricket. Instead of jumping on the internet to overcome boredom, cricket teaches us how to wait for gratification as part of a crowd. It reminds us that gratification is not guaranteed and how giving up our time maximises feelings of satisfaction.
It is due to years of struggling, and waiting, that England’s current Test success is so enjoyable and meaningful. The Barmy Army have lived and breathed with England through the good, the bad and the boring. Theirs is a passion that never falters.
Test cricket is far from a classic beauty, she is an inherently flawed creature, and all the more important to sport because of it.