Twenty20: Cricket’s possible answer to Football
I honestly don’t think that any harm will come out of the BCCI’s decision to implement Twenty20 cricket in India. I think this is definitely a win-win situation for everybody; the ICC, the BCCI, the sponsors and cricket in general. There is no denying that the ICC and the BCCI are going to make large financial earnings out of this format of the game. That is almost a surety. This is a very exciting format and it has attracted large crowds wherever it has been played so far. So the only argument left with the critics of the format is how Twenty20 cricket is going to deteriorate the more traditional formats of the game, namely Tests and One Dayers. Well I don’t think this argument holds water. I feel that each of the three formats have a certain uniqueness of its own. Test cricket has its own uniqueness, One Day cricket has its own uniqueness and similarly so does Twenty20 cricket. The same kind of arguments were brought up when One Day cricket was being introduced or when Day Night cricket was being introduced by Kerry Packer. Then too the more orthodox fans of the game expressed their reluctance against the acceptance of the newer and more vibrant formats. But cricket simply benefited from them and today it has become much more of a global sport than what it was before the introduction of these newer formats. So I believe that the same is going to happen with Twenty20 cricket. Twenty20 cricket is actually going to make the game an even more of a global sport than what it presently is and perhaps possibly, one day, put it on the same platform as football.
Another minor argument that is being voiced by the critics of the format is that this is going to be a burden on the players who are already playing so much of cricket these days. Well I don’t really see that happening either. Twenty20 cricket will go the same way as One Day cricket in recent times. The recent realization in the past couple of years has been that One Day cricket is quite a different ball game from Test cricket and therefore not all national team players are suited for both formats of the game. This has resulted in specialization in each format (Test and One Days) of the game and therefore now we have separate teams for each, with not all players qualifying to play for both. Similarly Twenty20 cricket will be quite different from the other two formats and since it is being played out at the highest possible level, with South Africa hosting the first ever Twenty20 World cup in September 2007, it will also follow the route of specialization. Thus I am sure that we will see specialist Twenty20 players who would not necessarily be playing in the other two formats at the international level. This will certainly prevent player burnouts, with different players playing in different formats of the game for their country. Besides, these days player burn-out is something that is being looked at quite seriously by the cricket management bodies and they are encouraging players to take breaks in between hectic schedules and are also providing them with sureties of income and placement with the teams. The rotation policy being employed by various national sides is a classic example of this.
Lastly, I think the introduction of a Twenty20 tournament at the domestic level in India will be a huge boost for domestic cricket in general. The BCCI has already announced its intention to hold such a tournament by May next year. Domestic level cricket suffers from major lack of viewership interest in India. Due to this reason there is a huge gap between the national squad and the domestic level teams here. One cannot even begin to compare domestic cricket here to the lights of county cricket in England and Australia.
A Twenty20 tournament is a good way to increase viewership interest in domestic level cricket and thereby increase the competitiveness of the domestic circuit as a whole.
Thus I see no reason why there should be any objections to the introduction of Twenty20 cricket in India. Cricket as whole seems to be a winner here, with something for everybody. If you are one of those classic, orthodox cricket fans then Test cricket is your thing, if you are looking for class and strategy but don’t have five whole days to spare then One Day cricket is you scene and lastly if you are one of those cricket fans who gorges on boundaries and sixes and likes a bit of ‘masala’ then Twenty20 is your game.