The sport of wood-n-leather began somewhere in England. It is generally believed that cricket survived as a children’s game for many centuries before it was increasingly taken up by adults around the beginning of the 17th century. The first officially recognized test match commenced on 15 March 1877, contested by England and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). At the beginning, there was only one format of cricket which involved playing two innings until a result could be yielded. There was no limit to the number of days and an over consisted on 8 balls. The face of cricket changed drastically in the 20th century. The arrival of greats like Sir Don Bradman introduced a whole new dimension to this exciting sport.
The 20th century also marked some of the notable events like the infamous “Bodyline Series” of 1932–33 when Douglas Jardine’s England used so-called “leg theory” to try and neutralize the run-scoring brilliance of Australia’s Don Bradman. The greatest crisis to hit international cricket was brought about by apartheid, the South African policy of racial segregation. In 1970, the ICC members voted to suspend South Africa indefinitely from international cricket competition. Ironically, the South African team at that time was probably the strongest in the world. The money problems of top cricketers were also the root cause of another cricketing crisis that arose in 1977 when the Australian media magnate Kerry Packer fell out with the Australian Cricket Board over TV rights. World Series Cricket hired some of the banned South African players and allowed them to show off their skills in an international arena against other world-class players. The schism lasted only until 1979.
In the 1960s, English county teams began playing a version of cricket with games of only one innings each and a maximum number of overs per innings. Although many “traditional” cricket fans objected to the shorter form of the game, limited overs cricket did have the advantage of delivering a result to spectators within a single day; it did improve cricket’s appeal to younger or busier people; and it did prove commercially successful. The first limited overs international match took place at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1971 as a time-filler after a Test match had been abandoned because of heavy rain on the opening days. It was tried simply as an experiment and to give the players some exercise, but turned out to be immensely popular. The International Cricket Council reacted to this development by organizing the first Cricket World Cup in England in 1975, with all the Test playing nations taking part.
With ODIs gaining popularity as time went on, in 21st century, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), in 2003 introduce a format that involves two teams, each has a single innings, batting for a maximum of 20 overs. This format was labeled as Twenty20 cricket is also known as T20 cricket and has grown immensely popular since the first ICC T20 World Cup in 2007, with the inception of IPL T20 league. It has everything for everyone, the entertainment, the crowd appeal, commercial razzle dazzle, just lacks a bit on cricket skills in my honest opinion.
Thus over the past four centuries Cricket has dished out various formats, catered to please the audience, yet the original version – Test Cricket, seizes to die and still remains the ultimate test of any players’ true cricketing skills. That’s probably because you don’t strap the bowler and tie his hands down, rather let him unleash at the batsman and encourage a true battle of the brave men. I myself would prefer to watch Sachin in a dual with Dale Styen on bouncy and fast Durban wicket rather than watching Yuvi taming a hapless Chris Broad, six times over the fence, in a T20 over. But that’s just me, there are some who just want to watch the give-me-results-in-3hrs- fatafat Cricket and nothing else, then there are those who don’t mind the middle 25 over phase of an ODI, and there are ones like me, who still think that Test Cricket is still the ultimate challenge. What can I say, It’s Complicated….
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav