There is a feeling that most if not all young cricket kids are fans of T20 cricket first and foremost, and that therefore we should focus all of our development efforts on the shortest format only. Although there is some merit to the idea from a commercial and logistics perspective, I personally think we’d be selling ourselves, the game, and these very kids short if we did so.
When I was a kid ODI cricket was the game my friends and I loved. It was the fast and action packed version of the sport that our generation watched on TV, and emulated in the backyard. It was what helped get me hooked on the sport for life.
However, as I got older my fandom of cricket matured. I read books and magazines, got hooked on statistics, and followed all formats of the sport be it domestic or international. I came to understand that test cricket was the highest form of the game, that only the best players could play and succeed at that level. As a result test cricket became my favorite format, probably by the time I was 15 or 16 and was starting to play for my High School 1st XI.
I firmly believe that the kids of today who are enamored with T20 at a young age, can and will grow up to be equally enamored with long format and test cricket.
We all know that longer format cricket has a charm all its own, but that its subtleties, nuances, and often slow moving pace can be lost on the young, or those who are new to the sport. In much the same way when kids first develop food preferences it is usually string cheese, or chips, or sweets, or flavored yoghurt – it is not until our palette matures and our understanding of flavor, texture, and sense of adventure develops to the point where we can discover all the wonders that cuisine has to offer. Not everyone will develop a taste for Sous Vide Duck Confit when they grow up, and many will still prefer a simple steak as their favorite meal, but for the real foodies, the fanatics, those who want to become world famous chefs, the food industry would be crazy if they limited those people’s options to fast food chains.
Test cricket is the Michelan Star version of the game. Let’s not rob our kids of the opportunity to experience all that our wonderful sport has to offer just because they prefer the flavor of chicken nuggets and ketchup now. Give them the skills required to master all formats of the sport, and give them opportunities to play or consume whichever version, or versions of the sport they like. The next Rahul Dravid or Glen McGrath may be an elementary kid in Suburban Ohio, hooked on watching the Big Bash League and the glitz and glamour of the IPL because it appeals to his 8 year old brain. If T20 is all we offer him as he matures, then we’ve done him and cricket a dis-service.