11 years and 10 days were passed since the cricketing world had experienced their first ever T20 International. In all these years, as many as 514 international matches were played with one more scheduled today (515th). The success of T20 cricket was not a real surprise – the time to be spent is cut down by almost half from an ODI international, more entertainment with mind numbing pace of scoring, and margin of difference is minimal, which increased the probability of close games drastically.
Cricket purists still complain about the technicalities of this format but everyone agrees T20 cricket was meant for a sheer sense of providing entertainment. The domestic leagues emerged in numbers over the years with almost every major cricket playing nation have their own T20 league fitted into their packed International calendar.
Promoted with a soul purpose of providing entertainment had its own pros and cons to it. The flow of money increased dramatically, cheerleaders and DJs became an integral part of the game. Celebrities on their day-offs visited the games and were interviewed in the commentary boxes.
For me personally, the key component of these T20s at domestic level was that it opened up the game for innovation – not only in terms of technology but also in the skill set.
Technology penetrated deeper into the game – uninhibited- Umpire camera, spider cams, LED bails, virtual statistics, on field mics, batsman cameras and pet names on the shirts along with twitter handle names.
In the skill set, innovation was the word used more and more often in the game – even though it was biased to be a batsman game – with heavy bats and shorter boundaries- it was not taken for granted. Scoops, revere sweeps, switch hits, late cuts, helicopter shots or whatever you want to call it-everything came in- which the older format of cricket never needed. For bowlers, evolution of slower bouncers, slow paced deliveries, cross seam, carom balls, more flighted and more revs came into the game. The player’s mind had to race against the time and skill of the batsman.
It is not just the batting or bowling that was scaled up. Fielding innovations came up. Strange field placements came in – right under the eye line of batsman, first slip on off side and leg side moved to boundary lines came up. No more classic 7-2 field or forward short leg limited only for spin. One aspect of fielding that pushed the game to its maximum was the boundary fielding – rebounced chances, relay catches and so on.
Three captain strategy evolved too in the process – many teams tried and tested it – succeeded to a fair level. With the # of games to be played by any professional team increased along with the talent available, the player needed to be at his best of fitness. You miss out due to injury on one format and you might not ever end up coming back – except in India. So, it demands a lot from the players, always on the watch out for their next big chance, not only off field but on field. That quick throw or that boundary stop could earn you more games.
The biggest worry for me is despite of heavy success enjoyed by the game, many questions still pop up about the relevance of international T20s- except for World Cup. Most bilateral series would include only one or two games and at the most three games which fizzes out interest from the game. But, how does that matter now? With the leagues emerged like mushrooms, the players get their needed match practice. What else do we need?
2007 was the year when the world had enjoyed their first T20 world cup and in almost 9 years, we are already into the sixth edition of the world cup. As we brace ourselves to yet another T20 World cup in less than a week, I am looking forward to see the next big thing of the game – where would the innovation come from? Batsman running between the wickets, variation of deliveries or the ridiculously reduced reaction time.
Here is what I am looking out from this year’s edition:
- New Champion to evolve.
- Bowlers take control of the game (In Indian pitches, I know that’s a huge ask)
- Tight games and few upsets
- Biggest sixes and
- Brilliant catches
T20 World Cup comes to India.
Aap Bhi Apni Taiyaari Karlo!