Boxing Day Test – success?

What constitutes a successful Test match? What are the criteria? Smoothly coordinated logistics, a good pitch which provides opportunities for batsmen and bowlers, a close contest, a happy crowd, a home victory…they will all be requirements for the majority of spectators.

Congratulations to Faf du Plessis, Stephen Cook and the rest of the team. And a special shout out to head groundsman Adi Carter who did a brilliant job. I’m sick and tired of people routinely repeating the hackneyed, boring line about ‘low and slow’ at St.George’s. It’s tired, out-of-date and uninformed.

However, over the last decade or so the ‘success’ of the Boxing Day Test match has been measured overwhelmingly by the size of the crowd at Kingsmead and St.George’s. It’s time to cast aside the blinkers of conventional thinking and really, really look at the tradition of the Boxing Day Test with fresh eyes.

My limited and unscientific research and feedback suggests that the Test match remains immensely popular with cricket followers – perhaps more so then ever. Just because only a couple of thousand people go to the stadium doesn’t mean to say they aren’t interested or don’t care. Television viewing figures prove that.

Durban and Port Elizabeth both offer strongly attractive alternative forms of entertainment and, let’s be brutally honest here – the stadium aren’t the most modern or comfortable. Only the grass embankments really offer the chance of comfortable, family entertainment. The lack of shade in most of the seats is a huge disincentive. Watching from the comfort of home with the chance to jump in and out of the pool and grab a cool drink whenever you want is a temptation many fans can’t resist at this time of the year. Cricket is increasingly a ‘made for television’ event.

The New Year Test at Newlands is different for many reasons. The Boxing Day Test will not be the same, unless we change our thinking.

My suggestion is to make it our annual circus, in the best traditions of mobile entertainment. When England or Australia are in town then St.George’s, Kingsmead or Centurion should be contenders as hosts. But when other nations are touring, why not take the game to our smaller venues. With a year’s notice they make sure the fans in their cities are aware that it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be there and be a part of it.

Kimberley, Potch, Paarl – the Boxing Day Test! Come on…think about it. There’s a lot to be said for progressive change.

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