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The return of the Test

The Mohali Test explained why the longer format of cricket is a thing to behold.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2010 22:20 IST

Well, Test cricket hadn’t really gone away. But with the first Test match between India and Australia at Mohali slipping and sliding and skidding to such a stop that a day later it still seems to be moving, the sheer thrill of Test cricket has been firmly established again. Much has been made of the Test format by the pundits. They have consistently argued that the five-day, four-inning format provides enough time, the perfect canvas for ‘things to play out’ in their natural course. Much of this ‘traditionalism’ is seen as grand-philosophising as a buttress to the more chatpata versions of cricket. But as the Mohali Test clearly showed, the Test match at its finest is a thing to behold, an architectural display of skills set at various levels that makes the different pace

of a match a core element of excitement. Like the sprint is contained within a marathon, all forms of cricket are contained in the Test.

At Mohali, we were also witness to the pure gladiatorial contest between the bowler and the batsman. In these gnat’s wings-attention span of today’s One-Dayers and Twenty20 cricket, the die is loaded heavily in the favour of batsmen. Essentially, the shorter forms are a thwacking match in which the batsmen pile up scores that the bowlers try to restrict. In the Test, the bowler becomes the predator with the batsmen defending their three-stumped citadel even as a target is set. So Shane Watson, Tim Paine, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina played their parts in their first innings to set up targets in the face of the wonderful hostility from the bowlers. But it was the pacemen on both sides — Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan and Ben Hilfenhaus — who held the fortunes of the game along the seam between their fingers.

Which makes the figure of V.V.S. Laxman, bravely facing the Australian chin music that snared half of the Indian team despite spraining his back, such a tower of sporting grit and greatness. Like life itself, everything happened at the Mohali Test, with even Fortune playing its part. The Test was glorious to watch. And, oh, India winning it by a wicket must have added that extra layer of joy to the beauty that we witnessed.