Death of a Gentleman is a good film exploring the corruption of the International Cricket Council. Money-mad officials from the big three nations – India, England and Australia – have been throttling test cricket in their own self-interest. It is depressing. Even if the ICC was as pure as snow, however, I suspect that test cricket would be declining. I am not sure it can coexist with Twenty20.
T20 is the pop culture of cricket: immediate and sensational. Test matches are sophisticated: demanding patience and subtlety. As audiences tire of five day epics and embrace the IPL there will be many who look with complacence on the spectacle of the market in action. People are just expressing their preferences!
Well, perhaps, but what I fear is that they are expressing their time preferences. We are not a species with an adequate capacity for delayed gratification. The Stanford marshmallow experiment revealed that kids will choose to have a sweet immediately rather than wait fifteen minutes and be given two. Degree-picking, loan-taking and diet-cheating adults often display a comparable problem with short-term thinking.
That we choose entertainment form X rather than entertainment form Y is not, in every case, because we like it more but because we like it more quickly. This conditions us to expect ever more immediate thrills but denies us meaningful and memorable pleasures and insights of more slow-burning, difficult activities. Will the kids who stay at home and shoot gangbangers on Grand Theft Auto be happier than the kids who once went out and fished? Yes, some will. But I suspect that most will feel at best no better. In the meantime, we are becoming a more impatient species even as our impact on the future becomes more dramatic.