India and Twenty20 World Cup
With the first ever Twenty20 World Cup just around the corner it’s once again time to speculate India’s chances in the international multilateral tournament. Already the three star batsmen of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, have opted out of the tournament on grounds that they want younger players to take their place as Twenty20 is essentially a game for the future and therefore it would be better if potential youngsters get a chance rather than ageing senior players, who won’t be around to see the game mature. The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) seems to concur with the senior players views as they have gone for a fairly young side while picking their first thirty probables. In the absence of Rahul Dravid the official Indian 15 that will go to South Africa will have to be captained by someone else. Who that person will be is still a question mark and will be announced along with the final team next month.
However, the BCCI had to swallow a bitter pill when it was forced to endorse the Twenty20 format last year. Earlier the board was adamant about staying away from the format at all cost. But in a high-powered ICC (International Cricket Council) meeting held last summer to decide the fate of Twenty20 cricket, the BCCI was outvoted 10-1 by the rest of the test playing nations. This left the BCCI with very little choice but to grudgingly recognize Twenty20 and even play in the first ever Twenty20 World Cup, something that the board had said earlier that they would no do so no matter what.
So why was the BCCI so reluctant in endorsing Twenty20, the new rage that was taking the cricketing world by storm everywhere else? Partly to blame was the thinking of the board and the cricketing fraternity that viewed Twenty20 as nothing but ‘gulli cricket’. Twenty20 was hence viewed in bad taste, something that maligned the very essence of cricket itself. Some ex Test players openly came out and called it a ‘total sham’ and nothing but ‘pure entertainment’. However, after the ICC vote the board had to soften its stance and subsequently decided to hold a domestic Twenty20 tournament to introduce the game here.
The tournament came and went in April with Tamil Nadu clinching the first ever Domestic Twenty20 Cup. The tournament was supposed to be a platform to introduce the format in India but no one became wiser even after it had concluded. The reason being it was extremely poorly organized and there was virtually no advertising whatsoever. The cricketers were greeted by empty stands as if to mock them. If anyone had any doubt that the BCCI had put the least effort in organizing the tournament then consider the fact that they never even sold the television rights for the event and therefore one could not even see the matches on T.V. When quizzed about the same the BCCI was expectedly evasive and said that it was all a last minute job and that there was no time to discuss telecast rights with anyone.
It seems that the BCCI was determined to scuttle the tournament. Perhaps it was determined to prove to the rest of the world that Twenty20 cannot survive in India. Therefore one won’t be entirely wrong to suggest that the BCCI did this on purpose to gather added ammunition for the next big ICC meet to revisit this issue.
However, whatever might be the future of Twenty20 cricket in India one thing is for certain and that is India will definitely be playing in the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup in September. One could be optimistic and hope that maybe India’s performance in the tournament might garner interest in the format at home. Maybe then the BCCI will take the format seriously. It will be a great loss to Indian cricket if we lag behind in this new and exciting format. As mentioned earlier Twenty20 is fast gaining in popularity all over the world and the BCCI would be daft to miss out on the opportunity.