The beauty of test match Cricket
Due to the different formats of cricket, there are many different types of cricket fans. There are those who enjoy it for the sheer entertainment it provides in a matter of a few seconds. There are those, especially in the subcontinent, who enjoy it because it becomes a matter of national/state pride to win a cricket match. And then again, there are those who find the sound of bat on ball to be the most beautiful one in the world. Test match viewers would place themselves in the latter category.
Picture this, Dale Steyn is running in on a green deck at the Wanderers and facing him is Rahul Dravid. The ball is heading towards a good length area on off stump and Dravid is beginning to move back and across to play a textbook back foot defense. The ball swings in the air, lands on the seam, seams away towards the slips, misses the outside edge by a whisker and thuds into the wicket-keepers glove. Now imagine all of that at 150kmph. The batsman has a quarter of a second to react, the bowler gets a moral victory, but the batsman lives to find ways to counter the world-class bowling. If even envisaging that scenario makes your heart race then you, my friend, appreciate top quality test cricket. Similar examples can be given from the perspective of a batsman, an off-spinner, a leg spinner, a wicket-keeper and a fielder and the theatrics of each one of those is tempting for a viewer.
Often test match cricket is condemned by fans of the other formats or other sports of not giving results even after five days and four hundred and fifty overs of cricket. While the quest of producing pitches which give results more often than not is an ongoing goal for the administrators, a fight for a draw in a test match comes with its own sets of challenges. Watching a team bat out two whole days of cricket may seem boring but when you split that down to a day, a session, a spell, it breaks into a number of mouth-watering contests between bat and ball. Suddenly, the prospect of watching Bangladeshi batsmen fight for a draw at Perth against the Australian fast bowlers becomes just as enticing as watching India and Pakistan battle it out for glory on the last day of a match on a turning track.
Another criticism that test cricket often faces is that it is played by too few countries but as Rahul Dravid recently pointed out in an interview, cricket requires so many skills (amongst other factors), which are perfected through years of coaching and practice, that it is not possible for every nation to start playing the sport. In recent times there have been talks of globalizing the game and reaching out to more countries but that is going to take several years and even then it will be possible only through the shortest format of the game.
There is no denying that while test match cricket is the ultimate form, the shorter formats are unique and have their own place in international cricket. Having said that, Test matches are for a niche audience and it is better if it stays that way.