Nine words to dismay sporting traditionalists: “Maybe it will turn out that test cricket has no long-term future.” They come in the conclusion of Prospect’s July interview, where Edward Marriott talks to former England cricket captain Michael Brearley, an unusually thoughtful sportsman and now a leading psychotherapist.
The two elements of his career at first might seem quite different, but Brearley says that behind the gentle veneer of cricket lurks a game of surprising psychological pressures, including unusually high suicide rates and public breakdowns among players. More significantly, perhaps, both test cricket and traditional psychotherapy take time to deliver results, and now find themselves under pressure from brasher, speedier rivals—like Twenty20 cricket, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
While the latter treatment is increasingly popular with the government, Brearley defends the longer, subtler benefits of psychoanlytic treatments. The former, meanwhile, will be tested when the Ashes begin on 9th July. An exciting, closely fought series similar to the one ending in England’s victory in 2005 will rebuff doomsayers who see little future for the long form of the game. But, given the extraordinary rise of Twenty20 cricket and the rapturous reaction by crowds and commentators to the recent Twenty20 world cup, either a boring series or a comprehensive Australian victory (or, worst of all, both) will surely be interpreted as the beginning of the end for cricket matches played in white over five days. Brearly thinks the result will be a 2-2 draw. It might be one situation where a draw is the right result.