What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again;
There is nothing new under the sun.
The furor over the recently renewed central contracts of Cheteshwar Pujara and other top performers from India’s home season, and the existential debate over test cricket’s relevance to the eternally pressed for time contemporary cricket fan is nothing new. More than a decade ago, when I was still in school and a big Rahul Dravid fan, I often found myself defending Dravid’s style of batting while Sachin’s more flamboyant six hitting obviously garnered more takers.
This was a time when Dravid had to keep wickets to find a place in the Indian One Day team and had been deemed by many as a “test batsman”. There were those who just didn’t have the patience and foresight to see what value a player like Dravid brought to the team – any team really, in any format. Today, I find myself in a similar position with Pujara – who may well be one of the finest batsmen of his generation, but can’t hammer sixes with the kind of brute force that a Chris Gayle can, and also doesn’t have the Gayle’s charisma so he often ends up talking respectfully to female interviewers – who’s going to pay to watch that, right?
Let’s ponder over that for just a bit. A test match spans over five days, with an advertisement slot every over – there are ninety in a day, not including the pre & post show segments, lunch and tea breaks. Yes, an IPL match garners primetime eyeballs but when Chris Gayle bats for an hour and scores a scorching thirty ball hundred, how much of an economic impact does it make as opposed to Pujara batting for ten hours straight, spanning over two days. Again, think of the collective eyeballs and viewership accumulated over those two days. It’s all about context.
As a true fan who can appreciate both Yoyo Honey Singh’s new age version of Mere Mehboob Qayamat hogi and the original Kishore Kumar version, I look forward to a good test series like the Ashes or the recently concluded Border Gavaskar Trophy just as much as the IPL. Of course, Chris Gayle who plays a number of T20 leagues throughout the world, endorses multiple glamorous products and makes more money in one bad season of the IPL than Cheteshwar Pujara would as the Top test batsman in the world in an entire calendar year. As much as I love a Chris Gayle blinder, the furor is justified.
It is because Dravid’s right to play One Day cricket for India was defended by many who believed that the impact he made on the game mattered more than his strike rate, and today we defend Pujara’s right to be fairly compensated for the revenue he helps drive on a more macro level is a regular reminder of why test cricket will always be important to cricket fans, long after Pujara retires. It is because as the game evolves, the players evolve too and so does the fan.
Long before the first season of IPL began, the debate over test cricket’s relevance in the years to come after T20’s growing popularity was going on. As the 10th IPL kicks off, if someone’s arguing about it, there is nothing new under the sun, my friend.