Ian McDonald (a poet, novelist and columnist who lives in Guyana) has a romantic piece in cricinfo.com (what will one do without this site, what terrific pieces one after the other!). He does not ask the question as posed in the post title but says it is the best game:
I have no doubt that cricket is in fact the greatest game yet invented. No other sport compares with it in the number of skills displayed: batting skill; bowling skill; throwing skill; catching skill; running skill. It requires fitness, strength, delicacy of touch, superb reflexes, footwork like a cat, the eye of a hawk, the precision and accuracy of a master jeweller. It involves individual skill and nerve and also unselfish team play. It calls for short-term tactics and long-term strategy. In the course of a good cricket match there is a mixture of courage, daring, patience, aggression, flair, imagination, expertise and dour defiance that is certainly unequalled in all other, more superficial, games. It is not at all surprising that cricket has inspired by far the best and most varied literature of any sport.
There are games that take more strength, more speed, ones that require a higher level of fitness, and ones that require deeper resources of endurance. But no game equals cricket in its all-round development of all the aptitudes. There are games that contain a greater concentration of excitement per playing hour. But no game approaches cricket in its blend of subtlety, entertainment, sudden thrill and sustained intellectual interest. Cricket, like no other game, takes the whole of a man – his body, soul, heart, will and wits.
Cricket – real cricket; that is, Test cricket – has been stigmatised as being too slow, too leisurely, lacking in colour and excitement. I believe this is simply one more aspect of the malignant modern appetite for instant stimulation and quick-fire titillation. The slash-bang games may satisfy the craving for a quick thrill, but they bear about the same relationship to a good game of cricket as instant food does to a superbly cooked gourmet dinner.
It is like the difference between lust and love. There is, it is true, the temporary excitement of a passionate one-night stand. But who can doubt that the more mature, the more beguiling, the longer-lasting love affair provides the more challenging and the deeper experience?
So it is with Test cricket. Like any lasting love affair a good Test match has its moments when the play is ordinary, slow-moving, and even boring. But the complex interplay of emotion, psychology, collective bonding and individual character, allied with the sudden bursts of excitement and the unexpected twists of fortune, add up to an experience that far outweighs the temporary and quick-fading lust for instant gratification that so many other sports supply.
One of the glories of cricket is the way the drama of a match develops, how the pace varies from the leisurely to the suddenly lethal, how the plot thickens, and the subplots are interlinked as the play goes on, how the heroes and the villains take the stage with time enough to act out their roles. A good Test match is the equal of a five-act masterpiece of the stage. Even the best of the other games can really only compare with one-act spectacles that attract those whose attention span is brief and whose imaginations are lacking. It may be that the latest pop star with his highly charged and hectic act can attract much larger crowds than Shakespeare’s King Lear or Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, but we all know that the one will fade into oblivion long, long before the others’ glory ends.
Few things in sport matter than a well poised test match. All three results are possible – both sides win or a draw. Infact, a team fighting for a draw is and another for a win is perhaps the best sporty thing one can get to see. We just saw such a battle in reent test between England and Pakistan. Exciting draws are better than result oriented ones.
And what a name for a contest – test match. It truly is a test of one’s character and stamina.
So I don’t think Cricket is the best sport (I would say Football given how much is packaged in 2 odd hours), a good test match surely is one of the best sporting moments.