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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014
Is Twenty20 here to stay?
Rajan Chakravarty
New Delhi, September 25, 2007
First Published: 19:52 IST(25/9/2007)
Last Updated: 17:49 IST(26/9/2007)
Indian cricketers celebrate after beating Pakistan at the Twenty20 World Cup final in Johannesburg.

If the one-day cricket World Cup was a sponsors' nightmare, then the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup was surely dreamt up in the heaven for cricket fans. A fortnight of exciting matches later, a mouth-watering India-Pakistan summit clash. Cricket's version of Brazil versus Germany or Federer versus Nadal.

Does it get any better? Can it possibly get any better?

But it does. The fairytale continues. Brazil, oops, India wins. In the final over of the tournament, with just three balls to go, and one scoring stroke separating the winner from the loser. On second thoughts, this one was possibly dreamt up in a bookies' heaven.

And what a fairytale it has been for India, twice on the brink of elimination. Done in by the weather against Scotland, then a tie against Pakistan. And then after a narrow loss against New Zealand, once again faced with early exit. Then four wins, including back-to-back ones against South Africa and Australia, ending in the title triumph against Pakistan. Add to that mix Dhoni's captaincy and his coolness, Yuvraj's six hitting, Pathan's comeback, RP Singh's bowling, Rohit Sharma's debut, and you are tempted to look for a stronger word than fairytale.

Purists, eat your heart out. Twenty20 is not just here to stay, but for ICC bosses, worried over dwindling revenues from the game save for the Indian sub-continent, it is a blessing from the Gods. And as the packed stadia in South Africa showed, the viewers simply love the newest and zanniest form of the game.

From the first ball, which the irrepressible Chris Gayle smashed to the fence, to the last which went up into the sky, and then was willed by a billion prayers into the hands of a gleeful Sreesanth, this tournament has had success written all over it.

At Durban, at Johannesburg and Cape Town, the crowds kept coming in, music blared, cheer girls danced, beer flowed and sixes rained. Even after the home team crashed out, you couldn't wipe the smiles off the faces of the South African cricket board -- they knew they were on to a good thing here.

Thirty years after what one day cricket did to Test cricket, the game's shortest format is all set to do the same to cricket's shorter version. Contrary to the fears of many purists then, one-day cricket has, over the years, given the viewers a more exciting brand of the game. It has not killed Test cricket, in fact it has had a salutary effect on the most traditional form of the game. Fielding has improved out of sight, as have scoring rates, in Test matches, and dreary draws have gone out of the window, reviving spectator interest.

And now Twenty20 is likely to do a similar favour to one-day cricket and even Test matches. Over the past two weeks, we have seen some great fielding, canny bowling in a format that so obviously favours batsmen, and of course, some of the cleanest and most spectacular hitting you would ever see.

Throughout the tournament, India has been electrifying in the field -- plucking catches out of thin air, effecting run outs with direct hits. It bears little resemblance to the side that less than a month ago in England appeared to be writing a coaching manual on how to grass sitters.

Look at Pakistan. The game's most temperamental side has been oh-so-cool. Shoaib Malik's young side has added considerable purpose to their innate panache. The result has been spectacular. Though Pakistan may mourn that they were just one scoring stroke away from the World Cup, they have already done enough to exorcise the demons that have haunted Pakistan cricket for almost a year now.

Some, if not a lot, of these skills that have been on display in South Africa are bound to be carried over to the other formats of the game as well.

The inaugural Twenty20 World Cup has already added to the game's lexicon a new cricketing term, the Ashraful, the scoop behind the wicket that the Bangladesh skipper, Mohammad Ashraful seems to have perfected.

In fact, the Ashraful turned out to the tournament's last -- and possibly the most decisive -- shot, as Pakistan's Misbah-ul-Haq, who had done little wrong until then, attempted to play it but failed to clear fine leg, posted within the 30 yard circle.

Haq, Pakistan's find for the tournament, might rue the moment he chose to play that shot. But one can say with a certain degree of certainty that in the days and months to come, in the bylanes of Rawalpindi and Baroda, in cricket academies in Perth and Colombo, young men will try hard to perfect that stroke.

Simply because that is the way of this game. And therein lies the beauty of cricket.


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