Based purely on the level of excitement, there is a good chance one would remember the 50-over World Cup more than the World Twenty20 in recent years. The cavalier way in which MS Dhoni sealed the 2011 World Cup, with a humongous six, or how Adam Gilchrist flat-batted Sri Lanka with a squash ball in his gloves for better grip in 2007 are some of those marquee moments in 50-over cricket.
In its initial years, T20 cricket couldn’t have had a better pin-up moment than the India-Pakistan final in the inaugural World T20 in 2007. That was however before Indian Premier League or Big Bash happened. Mention the 2012 World Twenty20 final and chances are one would remember Chris Gayle’s Gangnam dance first. It would really be an effort for a neutral fan to recall how the final panned out at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo that night.
Another World Twenty20 is around the corner. Bookended by the Asia Cup and the IPL however, the tournament is struggling for attention. This brings us to the question whether the World T20, held every two years, has been able to garner as much attention as the 50-over version, or has it been dwarfed by the cash rich leagues?
“They are different formats, so you can’t really compare them,” said former India batsman Praveen Amre. “And you also have to take into consideration that teams play very few T20 Internationals outside of the World Twenty20. If you see the international calendar, there is hardly any space for T20Is.”
Considering that India is the most important stake holder in world cricket, its share in the T20 Internationals is measly. In nearly 10 years since Australia played the first T20I against New Zealand, India have participated in just 46 of the 360 matches played. Take away their 22 World T20 matches and it means MS Dhoni and Co has featured in only 24 bilateral matches.
Compare that with India’s share of the One-day International pie (see box) and we get a completely different picture. Among the Test nations, India have played the highest number of ODIs, but are just above Zimbabwe and Bangladesh when it comes to T20Is.
“As far as India is concerned, the focus seems to be on playing more Tests right now, ODIs too will be there,” said Amre. “But we already have the IPL where the best international players play a very high standard of cricket. Where is the time to play more T20Is separately? Plus, so many Indian domestic players get a chance in the IPL that can’t be provided by T20 internationals.”
Anoop Abraham, former sports management course co-ordinator at the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong looks at it from the monetary point of view. “Since cricket is such a huge money-spinner in India, I don’t see any reason why they should play the odd T20 matches when they have an entire window for the IPL,” he said. “Pakistan might not have players in the IPL but they follow it nevertheless. Add Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to it and you have an unthinkable amount of revenue pouring in for almost two months.”
An established pecking order too is partly responsible for T20 internationals remaining stuck at half-bloom. When tour committees chalk out big itineraries, the first preference is for Tests, followed by ODIs. Only the rare whistle-stop tours that don’t include Tests allow for more T20Is to be squeezed in.
The official broadcasters though are happy with the present build-up to the Bangladesh tournament and feel it is unfair to compare it with the 50-over version. “We’ve received very positive response from trade as well as advertisers who fully realise the significance of the event and its traction amongst fans in India,” Nitin Kukreja, Head of Sports Business, Star India, told HT.
Despite the assertion, it remains to be seen how much of the World T20 stays in memory by the time IPL takes off.