Posts Tagged ‘Test cricket’

Shane Watson’s vice may be his saviour

Shane Watson has been called many things in his injury-riddled career. I have heard him called a pea-heart, a legend, a “sometimes” team man, a little ‘c’, a big ‘c’ (a fact related to me by a rather prominent figure in the Australian cricketing media), a top bloke, a terrible bloke, a Queenslander, a Tasmanian and everything in between.

He’s a divisive figure who, for someone who doesn’t seem to say, and sometimes even do, much, inspires the scribbling and yelling of a lot of words fair and foul. Who am I kidding, mostly foul.

But there’s one attribute that seems to have wriggled through the crammed door of adjectives about Shane Watson to stand proudly on its lonesome, seemingly enshrined as fact by the public: Shane Watson is a selfish cricketer.

The perception is that he relishes playing for himself, his average and for the betterment of his bank balance and reputation. Whether this is fair or not, it seems to just be taken as fact by many punters.

So the elevation of Watson to the position of Australian vice captain didn’t sit well with people who thought that he was a guy who cared more about the angles of his ferociously-gelled spears of hair than the results of an Australian cricket team fighting to remain relevant with the big guns.

After so many years of indomitable characters and out-of-this-world success, the Aussie public had come to expect victory. Victory was wrongly associated with a whole-hearted commitment on the part of the players, and the 1990’s Aussie team had its history rewritten as a unified ball of cricketing godliness, rather than several smaller, once-in-a-generation balls names Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Ponting and Gilchrist.

When results started to worsen, as they tend to when your team doesn’t consist wholly of the best players in the world, people started to ask questions of players’ commitment. And so we have Shane Watson’s predicament.

This isn’t to say that Shane does himself all the favours he could, or is a shining beacon of selflessness ala Peter Siddle. He’s not likely to re-injure himself for the coat of arms.

But people tend to look at you differently when you’re winning. Flaws are puttied up with the Selleys of victory, and the joiners of success lacquer the hell out of that old, decaying timber giving it a pleasant, if thoroughly artificial, gloss.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, there was no structural integrity to the extremely fine looking footstool that was the 1990’s, early 2000’s cricket team, and as all the crucial legs started retiring, citing reasons of getting old, cantankerous and grey, the stool simply fell apart due to the hairy, sweaty feet of public pressure.

If you didn’t understand all those carpentry analogies, neither did I. Basically the Aussie cricket team now ain’t what she used to be, but people’s expectations haven’t changed accordingly.

But back to Shane Watson. He came to the fore during a time when the Aussies had been towelled up by Andrew Flintoff. What’s a strapping, blonde, fast-bowling and hard hitting allrounder to do in a time like this? Be selected for Australia because we want one (a Flintoff)? You betcha!

And so we had our own Flintoff, except his name was Shane.

He was pretty good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to get really good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to play consistently, and really well, scoring lots of runs and even taking some very handy hauls with the ball. He did this at a time when he was at the peak of his physical powers, and had no other role but to go out there, opening the batting, and pound bowlers around the park.

Similarly, he succeeded when he was thrown the ball and told to take wickets. He bowled at the stumps, catching batsmen LBW with late-swinging deliveries. LBW and bowled were his key modes of dismissal; Watson was doing it all himself.

Then we picked him as vice-captain and the runs dried up, and he got injured again so he couldn’t bowl. We moved him all around the order. People started to turn on Shane, blaming him for the failings of a team that isn’t nearly as good as the one ten years ago.

He didn’t look overly compromised as a cricketer. He was never compared to the aesthetic nightmare that is Phil Hughes, for example. Watching Shane Watson never made one want to gouge one’s eyes out with a hot, blunt pot handle.

He still looked good. The complaint was that he was thoroughly unconvincing when he got past the ‘see ball, hit ball’ point of his innings.

Can you see that Shane might have made the connection between the responsibility-free role he enjoyed before he had the vice captaincy run with his own success? This was a time when he was opening the batting every time, given the go-ahead to get out there and do what he willed to the bowlers, and bowling when he was tossed the ball.

It was a simpler time. It was a better time. He only had to focus on his own game; not engaging in cricketing frivolities like fielding positions, batting orders and media conferences about team morale.

Catch ball. Hit ball. Bowl ball. Simple.

Selfish? Maybe. But this formula was the most successful in this very talented individual’s career.

And if Shane Watson starts playing like he did before he was elevated to the vice captaincy, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, then I for one would be a happy Aussie cricket fan. He was our Allan Border Medallist for 2010 and ’11 on the back of a couple of years of domination in all formats.

Sure, he couldn’t quite figure out how to hit a century, but there were more than enough 70’s, 80’s and wickets to make up for it. If giving up the vice captaincy triggers an immediate return to form, then all power to him.

The only problem is that it leaves Australia in a very awkward position of having one guy who should be captain, another who probably should be vice but isn’t, and nine other guys who aren’t guaranteed a spot in the side.

So while Shane may have done the right thing by himself, he’s certainly stumped me about what to do about the vice captaincy.

But it’s an honorary position anyway right? Who really needs a vice captain?

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Leadership rumours extend to Aussie cricket team

As the race for the leadership of the country heats up very quickly, then dies just as quickly, rumours were circulating about Mitchell Starc making an eleventh hour stand for Labor leader. Similarly, Simon Crean stood for the captaincy of the Australian cricket XI and for the key role in the latest Milo and Weet-bix ads, thereby ensuring his position as the most powerful person in Australia.

Granted, most of these rumours were started by me, but my job as a blogger is to simply report the facts, no matter how self interested or untrue.

But we have seen a bigger explosion of captaincy candidates in the wake of Michael Clarke maybe possibly (definitely) being out for the fourth Test match than there were Spartacus’s at the great Roman slave’s sentencing.

We’ve seen Ed Cowan, little Ed, the acclaimed scribe of the side, throw up his hand as leadership and captaincy material. Ed says that the more balls he faces the more runs he will score (thus his upcoming autobiography, his fourth, More Balls). But as well as showing off his mathematical skills, he also deigned to say that if he does the little things right, packs his bags on time, wears his sponsors cap at a jaunty angle and complains at the right times to big Uncle Mickey he might have a shade of a shot at having the little ‘c’ next to his name. Just to clarify, though, you don’t need a ‘c’ next to your name to be a leader, says Ed.

Spoken like a true usurper. Remember one week after the ides of March, Pup.

Little Davie Warner, too, a bladesman of some repute, not just due to how he waves it about but also because he’s just as likely to slay 100 foes as fell himself. What precisely David Warner could offer his teammates that Phil Gould couldn’t I have no idea. He could probably tell them that it’s mate versus mate, Commonwealth State versus former Commonwealth State, but beyond that I imagine his tactical nous and off-field diplomacy and speechmaking doesn’t compare to his opening batting partner. Importantly, however, his batting average does, and in a country where all that seems to matter is averages of batting score and tattoos, that might be enough to see Davey get the gig. In fact, it might be worth giving him the job to justify the millions spent on all that media training.

“Look how far we’ve come! Even Dave can present well to the media.”

I kid, of course. Compared to Ed Cowan anyone is made to look like a bumbling baboon, including myself.

And moving right on to the next of the baboons in the queue, scratching their noodles in the hope it will impress someone around the joint. Of course I speak of Shane Watson, the golden-haired, golden-armed, golden-batted golden boy of Australian cricket. It’s a pity his whole body is made of gold and is in constant need of buffing and rebuffing (pun) because otherwise he might be able to do simple things required of a professional sportsman these days like not get injured and be able to scribble ‘three things Shane can do better’ on a piece of napkin.

Then again Shane just had a baby, and that was the sole reason he was in Australia. I’d probably go back home to see my baby be born. After all, your baby’s going to be alive much longer than your cricket career. Unless you’re Sachin Tendulkar of course, who’s been playing cricket for literally as long as I’ve been alive. Scary and weird, scary and weird. Time to give it away Sachin.

It really doesn’t matter who skippers this Test match, does it? We’ve already confirmed that we’ve been flogged in India. Why even play this dead rubber? It can only lead to further humiliation of our boys, and I’m sure the Indians wouldn’t want to see that. They are, after all, humble, loving folks who welcome strange looking Australians to their shores with endless hugs, plates of vegetarian spiced stew and admiration for their captain. And who wouldn’t admire an Australian team captained by Shane Watson. Or Ed Cowan. Or Dave Warner.

All fine people and fine players whose spot in the side is completely and utterly guaranteed by virtue of their indispensable run-making of late.

In fact, let’s go all Port Adelaide on this biz-naz.

11 captains to take the field for the Aussies. You heard it here first.

Things you mightn’t know about the Test match in India (clue: it’s happening now)

As a pseudo-journalist-blogger-non-personality, I feel morally compelled to shed some light about what’s going on over in India for all of you who don’t have access to Foxtel or the internet. Realistically, then, I’m targeting a demographic of precisely no one, so I welcome you, no one, to this humble blog.

While I won’t be rubbishing on about the BCCI yada-yada I’ve been pestering none of you with for the past little while, I will be throwing you a few clues about what to look for that was of interest in the last few days.

Firstly, if any of you have been reading the papers in the past few days, you might have realised that there’s something slightly amiss about the images being used by both News and Fairfax. If you look here, and maybe here, and here, you might find some visual curiosities that don’t usually grace the sports pages. For those who were curious, yes, these also featured in the print versions of these illustrious media titans.

Hilarious recreations, I agree, and a cunning method of bypassing pesky issues around access to images. Of course, the old Test Match board, glue and printer would have never needed to be broken out had someone in India pressed the “Yes” key. But we all know that it’s water under the bridge, and it’s certainly given me a bit of a chuckle. Long may it continue.

Moving onto the game, where we were greeted with a pitch that had been the centre-wicket practice strip for the Chennai Challengers for every minute of every day in the lead-up to the Test. As such, we saw more purchase on day one from the Indian spinners than Eddie Obeid at a South West tablelands auction.

A metre of turn in the first hour of play meant, predictably, that quickies Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were rendered specialist fielders.

You have to feel for Kumar; graciously given the great honour of representing his country for the first time, before being told to stand at deep point and prevent twos for six hours straight, then for a further two hours the next day. It probably wasn’t the romantic ideal he had envisioned when he decided to be a bowler of above 100km/h twenty years ago. Them’s the brakes in India, fortunately or no.

Furthermore, Mahendra Singh Dhoni made everyone else, but in particular the Australian bowlers, look like fools (Pattinson), damn fools (Siddle, Starc and Henriques) and whatever is below a damn fool (le spinners). Before MS came to the wicket I still held fleeting hope that our boys might dismiss the Indians without too much of a lead. One double century of depositing all bowlers over the pickets later, and it’s safe to say my hopes were somewhat dashed.

Now, watching Shane Watson lob a tame catch to Sehwag walking two steps to his right from slip, my hopes of an Aussie anything are fading faster than Bradley Cooper’s hopes of an Oscar victory. Daniel Day-Lewis and India have these two wrapped up nice and tight.

One the plus side, Tendulkar managed to get himself bowled again! He has to stop making this so easy for me!

Bowled over: A tribute to the Little Master

Many of you who read, and the even greater number who did not read, my last vindictive post about the BCCI will know that I am now on a crusade to expose people to the delight that is watching Sachin Tendulkar being bowled.

It’s not because I dislike Tendulkar. Au contraire. He has the master of modern batting; a man who can grace the crease at any moment and take the game away from his opposition.

He is India’s Ricky Ponting, with a higher average to boot.

He’s the best since the Don.

Now while I’m sure Jacques Kallis would have a lot to say about all this (particularly statistically), we all know Tendulkar to be the most dominant batsmen of our times.

But sometimes we Australians, being the parasitic, grasping zombies that we are, must reach for the tallest poppy. It’s part of our nature.

And Tendulkar has gotten himself into this nasty habit of late, opening himself up to such scrutiny about being bowled by, well, being bowled, a lot. Sort of like Dravid did before he retired.

So with no further adieu, I bring to you three rather lovely videos of the great man being bowled in various ways.

Video the first – Pidgeon vs Tendulkar

A fantastic little clip; the uploader was even generous enough to include two minutes of Geoffrey Boycott (the guy with the broad Yorkshire accent) doing what he does best: tell everyone how bad they are and how great he is.

Though there is more of the former in this particular example, you can’t help but feel like Tendulkar was saying to himself: “get me out of here so I don’t have to listen to this guy’s dribble anymore.”

Not that he could hear Geoffrey at all. But you know what, it really wouldn’t surprise me if he could given the superhuman powers attributed to Tendulkar by his fans over in the subcontinent.

Oh, and then his middle stump (or is it leg stump?) goes cartwheeling.

Finally, Harsha Bhogle, the best commentator alive, can get a word in.

Video the second – Jimmy Anderson makes Sachin look rather foolish

You really have to concentrate hard on this one from the beginning. It all happens very quickly, just like that, “BOWLED HIM!!!”

Unfortunately this dismissal is symptomatic of Tendulkar lately.

Yeah, it was a good ball, and it probably kept low, but others might have kept it out whereas Tendulkar watches it cannon into his pegs.

The commentator (I think it’s Sanjay Mandjrekar) says it’s almost an offspinner, and it is. That’s no excuse for Tendulkar assuming the foetal position post-stump shattering. It only makes you look sillier than you already did.

And just to show that this is a common theme in such matters, I’ll remind you of this, which featured in the last post.

Video the third – Careering stumps end careers

One final one, just for those fast bowlers among us who love to see stumps flying and fast bowlers pretending to be aeroplanes.

Again, the master is undone by a ball that ducks back in and knocks back a branch, this time of the off-variety.

It displays Donald at his terrifying best; quick, accurate and achieving prodigious movement off the surface to dislodge one of the best players ever.

Many of you may have realised, by this point, what an extreme disservice this does to Tendulkar as a player of le cricket.

While this is clearly a horribly imbalanced report on one of the best ever, allow me to balance it out sometime in the future with a fitting eulogy of his career when he retires.

Or when the BCCI let the media do their job. Or just give Jim Maxwell a media accreditation.

Whatevs, I’m pretty easy, hey?

Why, oh why, BCCI?

Many know the BCCI (the Board of Control for Cricket in India) as the ones who replaced the fat, white men in light suits who used to control cricket. Some said that skinny, dark-skinned men in grey suits was a vast improvement on the previous model of cricket’s arbiters.

But what you may not have known is that the BCCI wanted to ruin everything (except the IPL).

While the above may be something of an exaggeration, what is not an exaggeration is that there is a high probability that if anyone from the BCCI reads this article I may find several burly, unpleasant men who just want to have a chat knocking on my door at 5am in the coming days.

Because I’m about to have a go at cricket’s new fat controllers. Any guesses who that might be? Ok, it’s the BCCI.

I want to let all my readers (that’s right, both of you) know that there is no more paranoid, bizarrely conservative body in all of sport, and there is no doubt that the two latest decision this body has made in the last week are completely ridiculous and should not escape extreme censure.

The first of these is to not allow Getty images photographers in the stadia for the upcoming Tests between Australia and India, and the second is their ongoing refusal to accept the use of the Umpire Decision Review System (DRS) for the same set of matches.

The first decision I mentioned has a story behind it. A very similar thing, in fact the very same thing, happened for the series against England last year.

The BCCI refused a bunch of photography agencies permission to shoot the games and provide images for the big papers in England. Instead, they proposed to supply all the images themselves, to which the British press said thanks, but no thanks. Basically it was a big flip of the middle finger from the British papers to the unadulterated bullshit that was that decision.

So you might think they would learn, because they did come under a fair bit of international scrutiny for that particular doozy, not least from bodies like the IOC and the ever venerated EITM (Everyone in the media… duhhh!).

But the BCCI don’t strike one as the smartest cookies in the toolshed, because lo and behold they’ve once again denied photo agencies access to the game. So my beloved SMH won’t have images except the ones provided by the BCCI.

“Yay!” you might think. “Hooray!” you might cry. At least there will be images, right?

Well yeah, I guess. I’m not going to get myself off on these pages about press freedom and all that, but God damn it there should be press freedom! People should have a right to take photographs of a sporting fixture, particularly if they’re part of one of the biggest providers of images in the world!

And why stop them? What do the BCCI have to lose by letting them in? A few seats in the press box? Well, I say fire a few BCCI employed journalists and let someone else (someone, I daresay, less vested of interest?) get in there and do the job instead.

I also suspect that should you want images (images that will inevitably surface, given the player in question’s recent record) of Tendulkar being castled by a quick, you mightn’t find them too easily amongst the BCCI sanctioned snaps. So in my upcoming coverage of the Tests between Australia and India, I shall make it my duty to include videos of Tendulkar being bowled.

Another tragedy is that although ABC negotiated for the rights to broadcast the matches on local radio, the fees proved too high for them to garner the requested funds. This is a great shame, as the broadcast of the last Indian tour with Mike Coward, Jim Maxwell, Glenn Mitchell and errherrerrherr (I forget his name, give me a break!) was very much worth the listen. It was one of the best broadcast tours I can remember.

So there will be no images, no radio broadcast in Australia (or online). But I swear there was another thing.

Oh that’s right, the little matter of the DRS. The thing, nay, the only thing, that stops players from having to walk off LBW after hitting the skin off the ball and having a curious, ball-shaped cherry on their bat. It is the only bastion between a batsman and being back in the pavilion despite having whiffed (and missed) a ball early in their innings. Let’s not forget, too, it’s the only thing between a “not-outing” umpire and a bowler going undeservedly wicketless in ruthless Indian conditions.

It’s completely absurd that the BCCI is the only thing standing between the cricketing world having a system that countless series have shown works, and one that is forever improving as time goes on.

Their argument is that it’s not 100% accurate. Well, to be fair, neither’s your judgement, and neither’s Billy Bowden’s judgement.

In fact, I would say that being able to watch a slow motion replay, complete with sound and heat capture, movement-predicting trackers and the ability to watch it over and over again is vastly more accurate than one look, at real speed with no possibility for replay. But feel free to disagree with me on that one BCCI. You seem to disagree with most of the cricketing world about most things.

So yeah. Basically, I reckon the BCCI have made a couple of bad decisions. That’s alright, right?

A gentleman’s game goes sour (and becomes rugby)

Wasn’t it nice to be reminded what Shane Warne was truly capable of?

Throughout his career we had booty shaking at Trent Bridge, Mrs. Warne bequeathing diuretics upon her ailing son and a certain lengthy ban for a certain serious infringement.

Yet all of that was lost in a sea of miraculous dismissals and denied hundreds once the great man retired, and instead the eye of common memory settled upon the Gatting delivery, calling Brendon McCullum’s dismissal in the Big Bash League last year and dating Liz Hurley (remember Simone Warne, formerly beloved of the gossip mags?).

There is an old adage about cricket, incidentally involving rugby, that one can catch if one listens closely enough around old blokes drinking Resch’s.

It says something to the effect of cricket being a game played by bogans pretending to be gentlemen, while rugby is a game played by gentlemen pretending to be bogans.

Harsh? Fair? I’m not sold, I reckon both cricket and rugby have their fair share of both pretending to be both, as well as just straight up nice guys and some lousy ones.

But there is an interesting comparison to be made, I think, between Twenty20 cricket and rugby. While cricket at its purest is predominantly about the mind, the more one shortens the format the more reliant on the body it becomes. It becomes less about thinking and planning and more about just executing.

Test matches give the bowler the ability to work a batsman out with a plan, because the batsmen knows that taking a risk in the longer format increases the likelihood of dismissal. Why risk that when you have all day to bat?

If he instead respects good balls, offering a dead bat, and punishes wayward balls that are easier to get away, the more likely the batsman will receive consistent reward. In this way the batsman’s ability to hit boundaries is less important than his ability to concentrate for long periods of time and survive planned assaults from bowlers.

Twenty20 shifts the focus. A bowler has to only plan one ball at a time, because he is the one who must hold firm and ‘survive,’ while the batsmen must use every ounce of his strength and hand-eye to attempt to score as many runs as possible from every delivery, whether through bludgeoning it out of the park or caressing it to parts of the fence a red cricket ball would rarely acquaint itself with.

The physically demanding, fast-paced and tough sport of rugby promotes raised levels of anger in its players due to the collisions and posturing. The lack of time to consider and plot, however, must also have a bearing on this. Does Twenty20 cricket, by decreasing the time spent between deliveries and on the field in total, thereby increasing the urgency of runmaking and wicket taking, also increase the level of machoness and posturing between teams?

There was certainly a lot of that between Marlon Samuels and Shane Warne the other night.

I think this theory could be on the money, but more on this later.

As to the censure around this particular incident, well, I think we might be acting a tad precious.

Samuels_Warne-1200

A clear throw from Samuels is sure to attract the attention of Darrell Hair

For those who missed it, Warnie was captured saying “Fuck you, Marlon,” then throwing the ball at Samuels and Marlon retaliating by throwing his bat in a direction somewhat close to Warnie’s, though not nearly close enough to threaten anyone. To be fair, Warnie should have removed the microphone snugly attached to his waist before hurling expletives at the bat chucker.

It all started earlier in the day when the big fish Samuels (a marlin joke, you see) decided to tug David Hussey’s shirt while he was running between the wickets. If they kept their hands to themselves there would be no story.

Wherefore all this masculine hanky panky? Is Twenty20 breeding a new kind of cricketing boofhead? Is it forcing young cricketers to be brash and cocky, ignorant of the grace, skill and charisma of the cricketers of old.

Or is this merely a blip? After all, how many other instances of throwing the bat have you seen in Twenty20?

Nay, I see this as a one off, and to try to make it something it isn’t is not giving enough credit to the cricketers who have played thousands of Twenty20s before this one.

More importantly, I have been analysing Marlon Samuels’ throw of the bat, and have determined through thoroughly unscientific methods that his elbow bend on his toss was clearly beyond the allowed 15 degrees. The University of Western Australia better get onto that.

The Test match as novel

In light of a certain 4.2 over run chase in the past few days, I thought it a pertinent time to put to you a theory I’ve been working on.

It is a theory of why cricket tragics seem to value Test cricket infinitely more than its two limited-over brothers.

Let’s get one things straight: I’m not a Twenty20 hater.

I quite enjoy snacking on a bit of hit and giggle every now and then, but only as part of a healthy cricket diet. In between light lunches of One Dayers and fulfilling dinners of Test matches, I really shouldn’t pig out in between.

So Twenty20 and I maintain the same relationship I hold with chocolate. It’s a sometimes food, not to be confused with the meat and potatoes (and vegetables) of a healthy diet.

The reasons I hold for preferring Test and One Day cricket also stack up with my healthy diet analogy. While a bar of chocolate can be utterly delicious, satisfying and exactly what you need at the time, eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner will make you sick in the stomach.

So it is with Twenty20.

A delicious roast dinner, on the other hand, is the ultimate meal. It leaves you satisfied, wanting no more than what you were provided. But more importantly, you know it’s done you good. The meat gives you iron. The veggies do their thing, replete with vitamins and minerals. The gravy is unctuous and delicious.

It seems like you can’t even compare eating chocolate to eating a filling, nutritious dinner, just as you can’t compare a T20 to a Test.

The comparison becomes even more skewed when you place a ‘good’ T20 against a ‘good’ Test. It’s just becomes unfair.

The foodie comparisons end here, as the reasons for liking food and liking cricket seem to diverge.

As Twenty20 cricket rises to ever more prominence and success, cricket-lovers search for reasons why they resent the new game so much.

“It’s just not cricket,” they say.

It’s certainly not cricket as one would see in a Test match. It is an entirely new beast.

Then again, One Day cricket was an entirely new beast when it came to prominence. Although it is now the divisive middle child of the trio, One Day cricket still would feature higher in the hierarchy of most cricket tragics than the younger, more boisterous brother of Twenty20.

Here’s why.

Cricket, for the spectator, is about investment. Inevitably, this investment boils down to a very simple equation: investment = time.

What do I mean by investment?

We all know the tenseness that comes from a Test match that is ever-so close. Nails are sacrificed to the cricketing Gods, hair is torn out, Televisions are flicked on and off and between stations as people seek a release from the palpable nervous tension.

A great example of this was in the 2005 Ashes, when Michael Kasprowicz and Brett Lee were batting to win Australia an unlikely victory, to have it snatched away in the cruelest fashion with only two runs required.

Both nations stopped that day. It was monumental; everyone watched it, and everyone who watched it knew it was monumental.

The number of fingernails reduced to mere stubs that day, on the field and off, would be close to some sort of record, such is the tension created by Test cricket.

It is the ultimate tension in cricket, and it is created over five days, over 460 overs. The more time you spend watching or listening to these 460 sets of six, the more invested you are, and the more epic the games become.

A Test is like a novel. There are many published every year; some good, some bad. Great ones go down in history as some of the greatest works ever written. Some are consigned to the sporting scrap heap, but are dragged up when convenient for the statisticians and argument makers among us.

It is the investment of time required to appreciate the novel that makes it so special. A novel can convey so much information to those willing to take the time to read it.

Anyone who does read War and Peace or Middlemarch will attest that it was well worth it, despite the slog required to complete it.

Test matches are the same. The plots unfold more slowly, and are told more delicately. The authors of the action are given this grace.

Some authors choose to accept this as a chance to tell the story slowly, opening themselves up to being labelled boring or worse. Certain storytellers revel in putting the reader through a kind of torture with their pacing. Some readers decide to skim through the novel as a result.

Not all novels are necessarily great, as it is with Test matches. But the time investment, assuming the spectator dedicates the time to appreciate it, will inevitably yield some form of learning, no matter whether it possessed the stuff of greatness or was of generally poor quality.

The One Dayer can possess similar levels of greatness as a Test match, but its obvious time limitation restricts the amount of storytelling the authors get the chance to do.

Theoretically, therefore, the greatest possible One Dayer could never be as great as the greatest possible Test match. The lack of time simply does not provide the authors to expound the same quantity of greatness. That’s not to say the quality of that greatness can’t be the same.

I see the One Dayer as the equivalent of the novella.

Some novellas are true greats. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and A Christmas Carol have gone down in the pantheon of literature as some of the best works ever written.

That memorable game, ‘The 400 Game’ between South Africa and Australia at the Wanderers might well fit into this category.

But can they ever compare favourably to the sustained greatness of the best novels ever written? Sure, these titles are well known and considered great, and rightly so. The list of great novels, however, is lengthier and better developed by ‘those in the know.’

Literary critics and bookworms could rattle off their top 50 works of literature in next to no time. Sure to feature among most are the great novels: Ulysses, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, Don Quixote; and the rest, as you might say.

Novels, all of them.

I would hazard a guess that at least 90 percent of those considered by the experts as the greatest works of literature would be novels, just as 90 percent of the best cricket games ever played would be Tests. Time investment pays off for the reader, just as it does for the cricket watcher.

Finally, we come to that art form maligned as peasantry by the true cricket tragic: Twenty20.

The time investment is minimal, each game is considered meaningless. There is some time for the action to play out and be told, but before they have had the chance to let their carefully constructed storytelling sink in, the next delivery has already left the author’s hand.

It is this that creates a sense of chaos and meaninglessness about Twenty20. A sense that something has been left out, but you don’t know what. A similar sense to what you might feel sitting through a movie adaptation of a great novel.

The Lord of the Rings is a case in point; a rarely excellent adaptation of a great set of books. There were lots of things missing in terms of the plot, but more than that, there was something missing in the feel of it. It was epic, but not nearly as epic as the books.

It could be that the imagination tends to hyperbolize and extrapolate, leading to epic that would not be possible to replicate in film format. Test matches, after all, leave plenty of time for the imagination to do its thing.

But I think that it is the lack of investment required to view the movie that has an impact as well.

Not having to work through the slow bits to be excited by the fast bits, and not having any sense of comparison leads to action and storytelling being devalued. It is the same actions that would amount to greatness in other expressions of their format, only lesser incarnations.

I’m not saying that greatness can’t be achieved in cinema or in Twenty20 cricket. I’m saying that the kind of greatness achieved by these formats differs vastly from the greatness of a novel or a Test match.

The Test match, being longer, requires more time investment to enjoy. It gives the author more time to express nuance, and space to express it at his leisure by placing a less arbitrary time restriction on it.

Perhaps this boils down to the attachment complex created by the great art forms of the Test match and the novel, an attachment that must be fostered over time. Or it could be something else entirely

Whatever the case, it is the giving of time that allows the storytelling to make its full impact. Spectator investment is the reason for the un-placeable greatness of the Test match.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair