Thursday, August 28, 2008

Twenty 20- Where is its place in Cricket?

T-20 – The future of Cricket?

If we take a look at the history of Cricket, it all started with the test matches….a grueling 5 day contest between 2 sides trying to get one up on each other….It was a hard fought battle which produced tough, battle- scarred warriors. Survival on the Cricket- Battle Field was definitely not easy….It required stamina, courage, temperament, mental toughness and definitely skills. It gave time for the bowlers to weave their web, set up the batsman and try and get him out. It would be engrossing for those who understood the game at that level, those who would like to see such relentless battle and at the same time it was boring for others, who loved the game but found it a bit too dull.
It was an endless battle and those who endured, took the blows, were ready to grind it out and had the mental toughness, finally emerged victorious…Maybe just a moral victory because getting a result in those days was akin to winning a prize off the scratch card! But nevertheless, it would be satisfying for the players...........

Then inevitably an idea came into the head of someone, probably a cricket fan - someone for whom the game was a bit too slow, a bit too long or a business minded person with his fingers on the pulse of the time; most probably, the later. With the times changing, people wanting fast food, instant coffee, fast vehicles , fast marriages and even faster divorces, why put up with a game that is slow. And the game was revolutionized. Out went the five long days, and in came just a one day game, clothes became more colourful, the ball was changed to white ball, rules for short balls were altered, and fielding restrictions were brought in. In short - the perfect recipe for an exciting game where the batsman were supposed to dominate and the bowlers to save their skin and escape the flogging. An economy rate of 5 for a bowler became more acceptable. Although there were 60 over matches too, but later on the runs being made in 50 overs easily overtook the ones scored in the former. The whole attitude to the game changed. Instead of being conservative and saving the wickets in the beginning, it gave way to exploding and exploiting the fielding restrictions. And batsmen like Jayasuriya and Gilchrist were born. Bowlers were put on the backfoot from the beginning itself but still when you look at the records of someone like a Glenn McGrath, which is enigmatic, it shows that even then, the really great bowlers survived and not only survived, but even dominated the batsman more often than not. Even Sachin Tendulkar would endorse that!

But even that was not enough. Yes, scores above 300 were touched regularly and the big hitting was there; but only in the beginning and the end overs. What about the middle when the batsman were just milking the bowling? Some changes like flexibility in using the Power Plays were brought in but they did not quite have the impact that was desired.Finally even the solution to that was found. And thus was born the T20- the current rage, specially in India (due to the fact that India won it). There was no margin of error for the bowlers and a nightmare for the fielding captain. There was pressure on the batsman too because they were expected to hit every bowler out of the ground. Yuvraj Singh succeeded in doing it 6 times consecutively and smashing a 12 ball fifty. But an encore is too much to expect. Still there would be a few bowlers who would survive by sheer survival skills and self- belief, who would take on the challenge and ensure that the species survives.

Undoubtedly the whole scenario has been changed and that too deliberately. It has been made with a purpose- to entertain. Cheer Leaders have been brought in..although there was a little controversy regarding that too but that’s a different matter. What it has ensured is that the matches would definitely be much closer than the 50 over game. There would be the nail- biters, adrenaline pumping action and in the end that is what a spectator would want, to feel it is worth the money. It is pure entertainment. It would also give birth to shots that have been previously unheard of…Batsmen would think on their feet and be innovative. What it would do to the technique of the batsman remains to be seen.T20 is good, but it will definitely have its effects on One day and Test matches. It would be advisable to keep a separate, young team for T20 which the old warhorses, The Trinity of our team have understood wisely. As most players would admit, it is more difficult to adjust from T20 to F50 rather than the other way round. We have already seen the effect of One day games on Test matches that results are far more frequent now because even the scoring rate in Tests has increased. But still I feel there is enough space for all the 3 forms of the game provided we do not go overboard on any one and keep T20 interspersed in between the other two to just act as a change in flavour, but it should not become the main recipe or try and replace the others.Then it will make our game complete.

If you take the opinion of the great players like Sachin Tendulkar for example, He would prefer Test Matches first, then one dayers and then T20…because Test matches still remain the ultimate test of a cricketer. Nothing can match that. And the dream of any young cricketer is to don the National cap in a Test Match. It won’t change. So although India is proving to be unbeatable at T20, I still consider Australians as the world champions because they show the ability to play well over a longer period of time that is Test Matches and One day Cricket whereas in T20, you just need one good over to change the entire game and it becomes more luck based than performance based. But nevertheless, at least the country that worships Cricket is a champion in at least one form of the game. So what if it is just T20!
Fact- India won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 followed by Pakistan in the next World cup
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