St Andrews is an institution steeped in tradition. This grand old establishment is a testament to the power of history. The very essence of this University is its age, its grandeur and its links with the past. You only have to look on the floor outside St Salvator’s quad to find a tradition grounded in martyrdom. There one finds the initials ‘PH’ that, if you wish to pass your exams, are never to be trodden on. It’s fairly simple: St Andrews is a highly traditional university and that is what provides this wonderful place its uniqueness.
Now, you may wonder why this column is in the sport section and not on the front of the University’s propaganda pamphlet but bear with me, there is a point in this. St Andrews is rooted in history – that is what provides this awesome place with its attraction, and the game of cricket is no different.
It is seen as a chivalrous game, played between the nobler men of a generation. Like the University the game is also upheld by long standing traditions; it is so rooted in history that the tree that is cricket should be immovable. But, unfortunately, a devil driven by money and greed, by television revenues and players’ wages, by short-termism is trying his best to rip this great game from its foundations.
Before I proceed, I’d like to make one thing clear. The game of cricket I described is true of test cricket, a game played between only a select few nations of this world, but it is not true of the One Day Internationals and Twenty20 competitions that have come to infect this age old game.
The problem is that the newly developing countries, across the sub-continent especially, don’t agree with me. There, the game of cricket is highly commercialised and the opportunity for making money is massive.
Thus the authorities are sacrificing games of proper cricket – or to be politically correct, test cricket – for the more frequent games of Twenty20 cricket, which increase turnover exponentially. This is great for cricket fans in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where the sport attracts the same interest as the Premier League here, or even in New Zealand and the West Indies where players have the opportunity to earn more money playing as journeymen in different domestic leagues than proudly representing their country in the test arena. But for die-hard traditionalists like myself and others in England, Australia and South Africa the chimes of Jerusalem on the morning of a Lord’s test match are priceless. They don’t just contribute to cricket, they are cricket.
We need test cricket. The sport as a whole is based and founded on test cricket. The rules and traditions of the sport all have their roots in the longer format of the game and we need to keep it alive. Reducing the quantity of test match cricket would rip the soul out of the sport and alienate millions of fans. It would, in essence, destroy the sport.
No longer would new rules be an adaption of an old-fashioned game, they would be an invention, a modern-day rule created out of the ashes of cricket. Even in a practical sense the sport would be diminished. There would no longer be official test match rankings by which one could definitively rank the greatest cricketers on earth.
I know I keep repeating myself but the equation is very simple: the sport needs test match cricket to survive. It is the lifeblood of the game. Twenty20 and One Day Internationals purely put a gloss on the body and make it aesthetically pleasing. Just imagine this university without Raisin Weekend or academic parents or May Dip. It wouldn’t be the same place would it?
Taking test matches away from the game of cricket would be even worse than that.