Mohsin Zeb praises the impact of twenty-twenty cricket.
When it comes to cricket I have always been something of a traditionalist. I have written before about the exalted position of the test match game as the ultimate technical, temperamental, physical and emotional test of a cricketers worth, and nothing will change my mind on that. However, this lifelong love of test cricket has not stopped me from enjoying the instant entertainment of T-20 cricket, a format I viewed with a degree of derision when it first came about.
However, like it has with many before, the shortest format has won me over. It has not and indeed cannot replace test cricket in my affections, but in its own right, as an independent product – it has displayed its merits and worth. I state now that I do not follow domestic 20 over tournaments, be they in the UK or West Indies or even India’s lucrative IPL. For me cricket has always been about a contest between countries, a tussle between nations with all the inherent gravitas that adds to a game. The national pride and passion, the emotional roller coaster and the stakes to match – games between cities or towns or commercial franchises do not capture my imagination even if many fine players take the field.
In any case, the shortest format brings both tremendous entertainment which is its raison d’être and tremendous innovation which will continue to have a positive spill over affect into other formats of the game.
Initial worries of T20 killing the art of slow bowling have proven unfounded as have suggestions that such a truncated form of cricket would amount to a simple slog-a-thon. Subtleties and nuances have proven themselves to exist in this format and as top bowlers always do they have adapted to new challenges. T20 requires constant thinking and strategic planning as each single ball is magnified in its importance to the outcome of the game. There is no ‘down time’ where a game can drag – resulting in a tremendously fast, energetic and exciting form of cricket.
As relates to batting, T20 has provided tremendous innovation in both approach and stroke play. Teams now consider 8 runs per over very gettable which has aided 50 over cricket too, as well as provided the game with a variety of innovative shots – scoops over the keeper being the prime example.
Moreover, strategy has shown itself to play a key role in teams’ approaches to batting. Far from the simple slogging long feared to be the outcome of T20 cricket – a careful constructive approach has emerged with teams chasing the benchmark scores of 140+ in their 20 overs which have often proved to be winning totals.
Bowling and fielding have evolved tremendously in T20. Acrobatic catches, diving stops and amazing out-fielding have become common place in T20 as each run is worth its weight in gold. With the ball T20 has forced bowlers to innovate to outfox batsmen with slower bouncers, a range of slower balls, given new life to the yorker which was becoming a dying art – such variety and fast thinking has made T20 a magic contest between good batsmen and good bowlers – rather than being a platform for batsmen alone.
In recent times such celebrated cricketers such as the legendary Australian opener Matthew Hayden have stated that T20 is the format most players enjoy most – and it is easy to understand why.
It is less of a workload for all involved, yet incorporates the strategy, mental agility and keen contest between bat and ball that characterizes the best cricket. It has earned its place within cricket’s range of formats and may in time squeeze out the 50 over version which it has (or soon will) replace as Cricket’s cash cow.
Workloads are a major issue now in international cricket and if a format must make way – it is only rational that the 50 over version be the one to ultimately be phased out. Test cricket is the apex of the game and T20 the more exciting and financially successful of the two limited over formats, accordingly 50 over cricket is finding its unique selling point void.
Whatever cricket’s administrators decide in the long run, international T20 is a delightful cricketing product and I for one cannot wait for the upcoming T20 world cup in Sri Lanka.