In my last piece I wrote about Tendulkar and how his might just be the last of 20-year careers. I hope I haven't put my foot in my mouth just the way Fred Trueman did when he became the first man ever to take 300 Test Wickets. He is said to have famously remarked: The next guy who takes 300 wickets is going to be tired, very tired.
Well Lance Gibbs went past his mark of 308 and since then we have seen several men top that mark, with Murali way beyond 700 and still counting his deliveries and wickets at Kanpur as I write this. The first day of this second test between Sri Lanka and India is promising a run fest unless the Indian bowlers have some other ideas.
Are such games and wickets killing test cricket? Are the demands of modern day life killing it? Or, is there something else? If one were to go by Ian Botham's view published in cricinfo yesterday, its about greed. Greed for that extra dollar that pushes the administrators to push the cricketers to push that envelope to be at a new cricket ground every morning and be good employees.
Twenty-20, 50-50, five-day. The variety that the current day cricketer needs to deliver is mind-boggling.
A spinner flights the ball, teases and torments batsmen for five days, and the next morning he is expected to bowl economically and dismiss batsmen; the fast men switch from wicket-taking, edge-inducing deliveries that move late to line and length and wicket-to-wicket stuff; and the batsmen tell themselves that the glide through third man is going to fetch runs, and not be gobbled like meat and drink by an eager slip cordon.
Asking rate and run rate are here today, gone tomorrow. Is the mental shift easy? I guess not. I don't envy the modern day cricketer at all, and while I don't dispute the valour of the men who played without protective gear on uncovered tracks, I don't think the job of the 21st century cricketer is easy. In many ways, its tougher.
There is the cricket, the raipdly-changing variety of it, and there is the media glare. Every news channel worth its byte has a cricket show, and every viewer an expert on the game, wanting to advise Sachin and Ponting. I wonder what they think about this circus in private—or do they bother about it at all?
And beyond all this is the demands of the sponsors, the endorsement deals, and the funniest spectacle these days is the presentation ceremonies at the end of the games. Dignified men, accomplished in their own fields, line up to make asses of themselves just so that they can tell their wives and kids that they gave an award to Sehwag and shook his hand. Again, I don't know what the cricketers think about it all!
The game is changing for sure. I hope, most sincerely, that we can preserve test cricket. If we can't, it wouldn't just be the loss of a type of cricket; it would be the loss of the art of cricket, of batting and bowling, and of captaincy that's more about matching wits than just playing cricket at most of the times.
And I wish the modern day cricketer can cope with it all. Appeal pending.