During Test matches, it’s not uncommon for the producer of the broadcast to pan cameras on spectators in the stadium dozing off. It happened most recently on Day 3 in the India-Sri Lanka match, when my television screen was filled with a man’s face perfectly at ease with his eyes closed as the Indian tail plundered runs.
This is one of those conventions unique to cricket coverage; most other sports broadcasters would think it absolutely foolish to show sleeping beauties to the audience at home, lest it imply the game is really that dull. I think cricket producers would defend the shot as a chance to mildly poke fun at spectators rather than a judgment of the relative merits of the game at hand. But at heart, the sleeping audience member is also a paean to the pre-modern rhythms of Test cricket, which (usually) defies the need for quick rushes and gratification.
Test cricket demands time — 8 hours a day, and five days in all — and its schedule is anchored by meals (lunch, tea). Watching is different, then, from watching a basketball or soccer match, where the actual events of the game are paramount. I’m not saying people don’t care what happens on the field, or that there isn’t such a thing as boring Test cricket — but I know I enjoy my Test cricket most when it’s in the background as I read or write or (I confess) should be working. It’s almost comforting to hear the same sounds of ball hitting pitch or bat again and again. It’s enough to put you to sleep, really. And I wouldn’t change a thing.