When Rajkot was allotted the Test Centre, local news papers, evening tabloids, Gujarati Channels etc. gave abundant coverage and pleased all the sports lovers. Till now Rajkot had witnessed ODIs, T-20s and even IPLmatches , but A Test Match is a different event, a new experience altogether . So, on the opening day atmosphere of first ever Test Match in Rajkot between India vs England from 9th to 13th November 2016 at the stadium was like a carnival !! Two local heroes Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja's presence in the Indian Xl added flavour to this festive occasion. Ex-cricketers from this region were felicitated before the beginning of this Test match. It was indeed a historical event unfolding on this SCA Ground. However due to demonetisation(a day before the Test), stadium was not fully packed, people’s interest towards Test cricket is on decline but contrary to that the mood in the Media box was quite different! 15 to 20 journalists from England and 30 to 40 journalists who had came from different parts of India made the Media box at Rajkot so vibrant that it gave the message to the cricketing fraternity that ‘Test Cricket’ will throb till such ‘Test Cricket dedicated’ journalists exist !

It was my fourth test as a sports journalist. Earlier I had covered 1983 Ahmedabad’s Opening Test and the last one I covered in 2013 at Mumbai when Sachin Tendulkar played his farewell Test. When ODI reportings are becoming ‘routine’ now a days and T-20 reportings are just like fast food bites, Test Match reporting for me was a thrill. Five days Test is like a ‘Cricket festival’ for Cricket knowing lovers and reporters like me ! This test was a special as it was the first Test of a series and opponent was England. England is the birth place of cricket and even today test cricket holds more importance than ODI & T-20 for England. Presence of so many British Journalists justified that belief. Right from the first ball the ‘Test-mood’ gripped the box ! In the TV commentary team there were Eight ex-test cricketers from India (Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Kapil dev, Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Sanjay Manjerekar, VVS Laxman L Sivramakrishnan, Kiran More) and three from England (Mike Artherton, Nasser Hussain, Ian Botham – all ex captains) and Australia’s Dean Jones, While BBC Radio had veteran like Geoffery Boycott. These many stalwarts of the game and that too only for narration and comments, one would wonder, but yes, it was a Test Match !

Every reporter would love to analyze the live proceedings which are happening on the ground in one’s own style, so the discipline in a Test Match media box was worth experiencing ! Sports make sportsman disciplined, but cricket will make him more and Test Match, the most! In contrast to the pandemonium in the ‘Temple of Democracy’ or a politician’s controversial and noisy media conference or a speech, here the serene ambience spelled the significance of a Test. Discipline, respect for each other and dedication to the work inspired journalist like me to write one more time that ‘Test Cricket is the Real Cricket’. Britishers are giving more importance to the Test cricket and that’s why any minute details of the happenings must have reported in their respective news papers back home, with different angles. T-20 & ODI doesn’t have any sessions but the innings, where as Test Match is divided into 15 sessions ! where every session has ups and downs, it requires in-depth cricket knowledge and analytical ability to describe those moments in black and white along with enjoying it as they happen ‘first’ in front of you. The excitement is at crescendo when the Test Match is holding for a nail biting finish in the last session of a Test Match !

At Rajkot, when the No.1 Test Team makes desperate attempt to play for a draw against the ‘underdog’ and when world’s most aggressive captain put all the attacking techniques in his backyard and behaves like a monk, the Test Cricket comes to the fore prompting pundits to say, “its a great leveler !” Under the watchful and moist eyes of father and relatives when a Rajkot’s “Chhora” (Chhoro means son in Kathiyawadi slang) slams a century, British press adorns this historic event in its own style. Telegraph’s correspondents repents that only 8000 spectators, were there to cheer up local boy ‘Chintoo’s first century at home ground, what a pity ! England’s claimed ex-caption Mike Artherton writes in ‘The Times’... Despite being Cheteswar’s father, principal coach and guiding influence, he had never seen his son play in a Test Match before, that is until it came to his home town for the first time, Test Cricket came to Rajkot for Pujara Sr. !

The excitement of Test Cricket proceedings oozes from each reporter’s ink and from the every commentator’s voice giving apt descriptions. We could felt the throbs of a test as it descended at SCA stadium but very few from this city could came to the ground to celebrate the historic occasion when a local boy slammed a century ! In the context of changing face of cricket and its definition the existence of ‘Test’ has been jeopardized but there is no doubt that the mercenaries sitting  in the press box with their wonderful reporting and the commentators with their pleasant voices and language command, are trying desperately to save Test Cricket !
Long live Test Cricket.....


-Kashyap Dholakia
(Prominent sports journalist)