Over the last couple of weeks we’ve witnessed the best that Test cricket has to offer. West Indies beating Pakistan by 1 wicket in a fabulous run chase and then India’s fast bowlers turned the Lord’s Test on its head on the final day.
These results got us thinking about how Test cricket provides the canvas for some really great stories – more than any other sport perhaps.
For this week’s #StorytellerSpotlight we spoke to veteran journalist and commentator Ayaz Memon about what makes Test cricket awesome, the greatest Test matches he’s covered, and stories from the sport that have stuck with him.
What are the three main ingredients for a great story?
– Relevance/ Timeliness
– Robust arguments/ characterisations/ plot
– Splendid prose!
Why does Test cricket lend itself to such a great variety of stories?
Test cricket is far more nuanced where skills and temperament are concerned, and match situations can see dramatic and mighty swings, bringing into play the `character’ of players. Also, time is a crucial component of Test cricket demanding deep focus, concentration and ambition to sustain – not to mention strategy, tactics, and courage – to perform at a certain level of excellence
The three greatest Test matches you have covered…
1) Tied Test India v Australia, Madras 1986: Self explanatory since a Tie is among the `rarest of rare’ results. There have been only 2 in history.
2) India v Australia, Kolkata 2001: Laxman & Dravid turned the match on its head batting an entire day after India were forced to follow on, providing enough runs for the Aussies, who had won 16 matches on the trot, to be beaten. This match also transformed the fate of the series, and changed the mindset in Indian cricket.
3) India v Australia, Brabourne Stadium, 1964: This was not a match I covered, but the first one I saw. India prevailed by two wickets in a humdinger,the crowds went wild. Thousands collected under the CCI balcony to cheer Pataudi and his team. I got hooked to cricket for life!
A Test match performance you wish you had witnessed first hand…
India v England, Madras 1952: First ever Test victory for India, Vinoo Mankad the hero.
A sports movie/ book that you would recommend to anyone that listens. Why?
Beyond A Boundary by C L R James, for its searing prose, and how it captures the socio-political ethos of the Caribbean through the prism of cricket
Does Test cricket need to be tweaked to stand out in a world where attention spans are getting shorter?
Yes. Day-night cricket with a pink ball, matches reduced to four days of 100 overs each, free entrance to stadia for say under-16 and over-60 age groups would go a long way in retaining existing fans and attracting new ones.
What do you do when you have a deadline and your brain stops working? Any go-to hacks to get past the block?
I switch to music for a brief while. Or read a couple of pages quickly from some P G Wodehouse book which is always with me.