T20 viewers today, Test fans tomorrow
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Test cricket has laid out for us a three day result and a thrilling five day draw. In recent times we have had spirited back to the wall displays, a match winning innings with a broken finger, a side ranked number eight competing on level terms with another ranked second, extremely fast swing bowling as good as any in the history of the game. And we had that last year and the year before. Indeed, most years we get a series to remember. Yes, we also saw two sides that couldn't cope with conditions in each other's land, sub-continent teams continued to be sitting ducks in overseas conditions and that again is something we have on an annual basis. Test cricket didn't change a lot and yet continued to enthrall. Sometimes the status quo is not a bad thing.
For a major part of its 135 years Test cricket has been unchallenged. One-day cricket, even with its extremely stuttering start, has existed for less than a third of that time. Now a new generation challenges it. The issue is not with the inherent strength of the format but with its relevance to a new group of viewers. Already half of India is under 25, their expectations and preferences are vastly different. But the people talking to them about cricket come from a very different culture. Commentators and writers have grown up in an era where Test cricket was glorious, but was also in a monopoly. Traditionally, cricket communicators have reached out to their own, to those who understand the game as much, follow it with the same intensity and would be aware that Nathan Lyon faced more deliveries than Shane Watson in the series just finished.
About a month ago some of us were part of a presentation made by a television channel on the audience for cricket. There was some serious number crunching and some uncomfortable results. Now, traditionally, sport has looked down at the number crunchers but the reality is that they give sport the financial sustenance it needs. They understand the following for sport better than anyone else. And they were sending out some warning signals.
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