x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Cricket's smash hit

Comparing Test cricket with the Twenty20 game is like comparing Gordon Ramsay with Ronald McDonald.

Pakistan and India fans watch their countries face each other during a warm-up for the World Twenty20 at the Oval in London.
Pakistan and India fans watch their countries face each other during a warm-up for the World Twenty20 at the Oval in London.

Comparing Test cricket with the Twenty20 game is like comparing Gordon Ramsay with Ronald McDonald. Sure, both shift huge quantities of food, and both have their devotees, but they are aiming at entirely different audiences. So it is with Twenty20 and Test cricket. Each has its place, but in England there are those who spurn the fast food version of the national summer sport as surely as they would Chicken McNugget and fries.

They pour scorn on the Twenty20 game, characterising it as a made-for-TV slug-fest, devoid of all the subtleties that make cricket such an absorbing sport. This smacks of snobbery in my view - I seem to remember the same sniffiness from cricket purists when the one-day game started - and ignores the fact that the World Cup, showing on TV all over the world, is providing irresistible entertainment.

So captivating has the competition been that sports as varied as snooker, polo, and athletics are falling over themselves to invent short television-friendly competitions. They recognise the reality that cricket is in competition not just with other sports, but soap operas, old movies, and lame-brained so-called talent shows, in trying to get a wedge of TV money before it all runs out. If viewers are reluctant to sit for hours in front of the TV watching subtle dabs to third man, why not pin them to their sofas with a game where every ball matters and, more importantly and entertainingly, every mistake is costly?

My view is in no way coloured by the fact that the Australians were the first big name to fall in the Twenty20 World Cup. Well, maybe just a little. It was fun to see them skewered by the West Indies and then Sri Lanka, but I am inclined to agree with Ricky Ponting that England followers will be wasting their time looking for signs of collapsing confidence in advance of this summer's Ashes series. Different games, you see.

As the Australia captain points out, their series win in South Africa re-established them as the leading Test side in the world, and while their one-day and Twenty20 form has been variable to say the least, their Test cricket looks as strong as ever. There will be a big changeover when Australia's Twenty20 players leave and the remainder of the Ashes squad arrives in the next few days, and it is probably not necessary to say that when it comes to the Ashes, there will be no shortage of motivation.

The good news for England is that all-rounder Andrew Flintoff says his recovery from knee surgery is on track, and is confident he will be ready for the first Test against Australia beginning on July 8, while Kevin Pietersen's triumphant return to action against Pakistan augurs well for the challenges to come. As always, the Ashes will light up the English summer, but, in the meantime, I shall ignore the cricket fundamentalists and have fun watching the slug-fest. I might even get myself a burger.

mkelner@thenational.ae