It might seem a curious time to announce this, with the foul weather yet to loosen its shackles, but now is the summer of our discontent.

It is bad enough that test cricket is under attack from life itself - imagine sitting down now to try to invent a sport and proposing a game that would take five full days to complete - but even worse is that it's being sabotaged by its custodians.

Who's going to save it?

The above paragraph breaks one of the golden column-writing rules - "Thou shall not pose a question that you cannot answer" - but truth is I have no idea.


It won't be you lot. Even with a whole lot of baby-boomers hitting retirement age and looking for ways to spend all their dosh, we're not going to suddenly fill stadiums for five days. It just isn't how spoilt-for-choice New Zealanders live. We dip in and out of test cricket and that's fine but those metrics don't work for stadium management, cricket administrators, or...

... Broadcasters. They're not going to save it (though they could stay its execution). It costs a lot to televise a test. In this country at least, it costs more than the return they get for it. Far better for them the shortest format.

It won't be plaintive cries from the media. Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber put together the excoriating Death of a Gentleman (I urge you to watch this trailer at least) that should have a far greater impact than it did, but as the late Martin Crowe once wrote: "The ICC, as we know, is an oligarchy."

The recent release of the New Zealand's international schedule all but confirmed that those most capable of releasing the lifeboats will also look the other way.

Just four tests, all of them played in long-sleeve, cable-knitwear weather.

In between the second test of the upcoming season and the third there will be 95 days where fans will not see a red ball, will not hear commentators thrum out test cricket's lilting rhythms, will not engage with sport's evolutionary high point.

Test cricket is being treated as a necessary evil. Soon it won't be necessary. And when tests become a novelty, how much longer before administrators target the expensive first-class competitions that underlie them?

(That is a question I can answer: not long at all.)

Ergo, the administrators won't save it.

The players might not be able to save it but they could do a lot more than they are to apply pressure if they love the five-day game as much as they say they do.

There's been barely a squeak since the schedule was released. I've heard from a number of people that a number of players are genuinely unhappy but until I actually hear it from the horse's mouth - or the horse's twitter feed - it's worthless babble.

As is this, ultimately. I cannot save tests. I can't even watch as much of them as I once could.

But I can, and will, lament their painful demise.


What a magnificent week for Tom Walsh; what a horrible week for the track part of track and field.

Usain Bolt's otherworldly brilliance masked for years the stench of Justin Gatlin's continued presence in the short distances.

For Bolt to lose his final race was fine, for him to lose it to a man twice banned for his involvement in PEDs was not.

In 2001, Gatlin had a two-year ban reduced to one when he argued his positive test was the result of attention deficit disorder drug he had taken since childhood.

You could make a case that he was unlucky. Ritalin, or Adderall, was commonly used to treat hyperactive children but, and this is a big but, it is almost certainly helped him.

"There's no question it's a performance-enhancing drug," Dr Gary Wadler, a past chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Prohibited List Committee, is on record as saying. "[It is] one of the quintessential performance-enhancing drugs."

You can't give Gatlin a free pass on this but you can accept that he deserved another shot. What is unforgiveable is that he came back top the sport and worked with disgraced coach Trevor Graham whose athletes - including Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and the tragic Antonio Pettigrew - had nasty habits of testing positive for drugs.

Athletes talk. It bends the credulity spectrum to suggest Gatlin was unaware of the chatter around Graham's programme before they joined forces.

Even if you believe the fantastic (in the true sense of the word) tale that he unwittingly tested positive after having cream rubbed into his buttocks by his massage therapist Chris Whetstine, Gatlin deserves no sympathy for his naiveté, or his lack of contrition.

He has never been sorry for playing a big part in bringing a sport to his knees but he's always been sorry he got caught.

Gatlin was banned for eight years, which most agree would have been a virtual life ban. Instead it was reduced to four on appeal and it has come back to bite the sport, hard.

It would have been fitting for Bolt to lose his last individual race, a symbolic passing of the baton. The man who he handed it to has already dropped it twice and no athlete, no matter how fast, should be able to come back from that.


An interesting peek inside the short life of Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu, from SI.

A typical fivethirtyeight brainiac look at the axis-tilting transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to PSG.