I was watching the Federer v Llodra match in Toronto the other night. Despite the difference in ranking of the two players (Federer is at present ranked as #3 in the world; Llodra currently at #35) it was a highly entertaining affair: aggressive shots; dashes to the net (I think Lllodra was officially at the net some 50 times; Federer, somewhat uncharacteristically, some 20); angles played and angles robbed; volleys and passing shots. Each point was sharp and short. It was a highly entertaining affair, but a relatively short one: two sets; 1 hours 19 minutes. Would Federer fans have enjoyed the match had it gone on for longer? I think not. Would Llodra fans? Well, apart from the fact that 'their' man did not win, I think not. In fact, I would go as far as saying that it was the most enjoyable, most riveting match of this year's Toronto tournament thus far.
You may ask what has this got to do with cricket?
Well, to a certain extent, it has to do with cricket pitches I think. Even more, it has to do with what people watching cricket want. And even more than that, it has to do what the cricket powers-that-be and the ground staff they direct think that people who watch cricket want.
At the moment, the cricket powers-that-be appear to believe that what we cricket tragics want to see are Test matches that go for the full 5 days and batsmen who are allowed to score boundaries and sixes every time they put bat to the ball. So they prefer pitches that allow batsmen to score freely and put put the ropes further and further into the field.
But do we?
Speaking for myself, I want Test matches that test bowlers and batsmen equally. I am very tired of Tests with flat,'batsmen-friendly' pitches where scoring is gratuitous. The ones where first innings scores touch the seven-hundred. The ones in which towards the end of Day 2, exhausted bowlers are totter up towards the pitch on what one imagines must be the bloody stumps that use to be their feet. The ones in which the rope/boundary is placed so far in on the field, that it seems only a slight exaggeration to say that any ball chipped past mid-on is a 6. I would prefer a result in most Test matches. I would prefer livelier pitches that produces exciting-to-watch batting (because the batsman, unless he selects and executes his shots both carefully and with skill might get out), as well as exciting-to-watch bowling and fielding (because they all feel they have a chance: the chance to create a chance; the chance to take a chance). I would prefer Test matches in which each innings is around the 90 overs of one day with each Xi all out; I would prefer Day 5 to be a sort of 'back-up' to force a result. A test (Test) of players, not the viewers' patience.
In short: longer is not necessarily better. Better is better. And the more exciting, the better — even if it is short. Short but sweet. Quality, not quantity. Whether in tennis or cricket.