Tests are worth watching

Stars to watch...India's M. S. Dhoni, V. V. S Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar during a practice session. Cricket looks towards India and South Africa, the top two sides in the world, to produce a combative and sporting series.-K.R. DEEPAK

Players must turn a summer of discontent into a winter of glorious restoration. More than ever the game looks towards its leading lights, writes Peter Roebuck.

Cricket desperately needs its top teams to put on the sort of show that alone will repair the game's image. Of late cricket has more resembled a money laundering operation than a glorious recreation that fulfils adult expectations and stimulates childhood dreams. Don Bradman used to remind players that they were mere stewards of the game, shadows that flit across the front of a cave. Their task is to leave cricket in better shape than they found it. Suffice it to say that of late too may players have failed to meet that challenge.

Every player involved ought to reflect on those games played in backyards, back streets and on patches of rough grass in Mumbai, Colombo and Pudsey. Did they imitate a hoodlum squeezing money from a victim, a shyster stealing from an innocent, a poseur bedecked in jewels or a great player belting the ball around?

What happened to those aspirations? A man needs to beware lest his reason for undertaking a task changes without him noticing. It is not an overnight thing — that occurs only in movies. Rather it is a stealthy operation. Suddenly the youngster realises he is in trouble or, with the lucky ones, that he is heading in the wrong direction and needs to change course.

None of those past players parading their ill-gotten gains on television or in parliament or coaching a team is truly content. They scrape the surface of life. Appearances can mislead. Their souls are corrupted and their reputations are in tatters. Of course they can fool backslappers and small talkers but the game remembers. The only way they can redeem themselves is by giving it all away and undertaking an activity that's not calculated to put even more money in their account.

The tortured need is to get rid of drugs and labels and marble and get back to basics. Much the same applies to cricket. As a matter of urgency it needs to reject mammon and to remember that its primary duty is to the young and the public. Moreover it needs to be placed in the hands of lovers not fakers.

Cricket looks towards India and South Africa, the top two sides in the world, to produce a combative and sporting series over the coming, festive season. It is not beyond their capacity. India's side includes some of the game's greatest and most enthralling batsmen. Let them play with gusto, let them fuel the dream.

South Africa also has a wonderful side, diverse and strong. Already local cricket has travelled a thousand miles and now it needs to go further, taking pride in its variety, remaining strong in its approach, building a new tradition, proving that Test cricket is worth watching and cares about its supporters and its position.

Meanwhile Australian and “English” cricketers must put their shoulders to the wheel. Over the years England has gained an unenviable reputation for playing all its best sport in the newspapers. But that is in the past. New England, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad's country, is supposed to be made of sterner stuff. Let them prove it.

Cricket has fallen back in Australia. Locals have not seen a tight Ashes series for 24 years. Enthusiasts crave a thriller. They want to see sporting and attacking cricket, have heard enough about jiggery pokery to last them a lifetime.

Bradman's words ought to be pinned on the dressing room wall of every team in every country. Players must turn a summer of discontent into a winter of glorious restoration. More than ever the game looks towards its leading lights.