London, July 15: Many are asking the question whether Test cricket is a tenable sport in this fast-paced day and age. An 8-hour-a-day, five-day game that oftentimes culminates in a draw, may defy the norms of entertainment in the present paradigm. But the fact that the 2000th such encounter is all set to unfold at the home of cricket Lords, England, with a sell-out crowd ready to witness the epoch, is validation of its enduring popularity.
England has always been one to purport tradition and custom and now there are nine other such participating countries following suit where Test cricket is concerned (with the appearance of new entrants on the horizon). Today's set up is indeed a far cry from the early years of this long-winded contest where the only countries that engaged in such were England and Australia.
Indeed, Test cricket has certainly come a long way in terms of its global appeal, from its first edition which took place between the inaugural Ashes series in Melbourne in 1877. Naturally, it follows that the volume of matches played has also soared - from 803 in its first hundred years to nearly 1,200 in the last three-and-a-half-decades.
Test cricket even came in for a water-shed modification in tactics during the infamous Bodyline series when Douglas Jardine's England toured Australia in 1929/30. The ruthless England skipper redefined the way the game would be played for the decades that followed by having his pacemen Harold Larwood and Bill Voice bowl straight at the batsman's body to stifle the flow of runs. He defended the controversial new strategy as "legitimate leg-theory". Australia were taken off-guard at such a ploy and many of their premier batsman, including the great Don Bradman, had no answer as the English ran amok and reclaimed their Ashes glory.
By then Test cricket's membership had opened up to the West Indies, New Zealand and India, with the former colonies of the British empire demonstrating their mettle and passion for the sport. A spate of dull series by game's oldest rivals in the early 1960s threatened its existence till a colourful West Indies unit came up with more vibrant innovations.
The rest as we know, is history.The advent of one-day cricket in the international arena and the recent phenomenon of Twenty20 has done little to shirk the momentum behind cricket's purest format. Long Live Test Cricket!