Twenty20 – Perfect for the future or a cricket cannibal?
In an ideal world Twenty20, cricket’s newest and shortest format, should be hailed as the perfect way forward for a game still played by barely 10 teams at the highest level.
The World Twenty20 which begins in England on Friday is expected to draw huge crowds and television audiences, pointing to the galloping popularity of the three-hour game, the sporting equivalent of a Hollywood action flick rather than the Bollywood drama of a five-day test.
Twenty20 is drawing new and younger audiences, at stadiums and in living rooms in front of TV sets. Last year, it triggered the Indian Premier League (IPL), the multi-million dollar franchise event with players from many countries which resembles other major professional sports like soccer and NBA.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) says it is pleased to own three versions, the 50-over game being the other, but betrays nervousness that Twenty20 could gobble up the other two in the near future.
The ICC has said it wants Twenty20 to be played more at the domestic level. Its CEO Haroon Lorgat said last week it would keep a tight leash on T20 on the international stage.
Some fret that upcoming players could soon lose the skill and temperament essential to even survive five-day tests.
So should fans laud Twenty20 or worry about what cricket could lose in the long term?
Many other games such as tennis, table tennis and volleyball have all benefited after being tweaked for the sake of TV, gaining more exposure and endorsements.
Twenty20 also appears the best bet for cricket to reach America. The ICC has even asked U.S. cricket officials to start a tournament on the lines of IPL to counter an unauthorised American Premier League planned to launch soon.
The short game is throwing up many new players, quashing the initial argument that unless one had the skill honed in the longer version, the player may not survive the latest slam-bang format.
Will Twenty20 change the world cricketing order in the near future? Will test and one-day cricket bow to it? It’s unlclear how long will we have to wait for a definitive answer.
PHOTO: England’s Ravi Bopara (R) and West Indies’ Denesh Ramdin during the ICC World Twenty20 warm-up at Lord’s in London June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Philip Brown