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Balance between sport & mirth key

India gave the game widespread publicity by unveiling the IPL. Now there is a planned EPL in England and Australia is considering an upgrade to their competition. Twenty20 cricket is suddenly the rage, writes Ian Chappell.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2008 02:11 IST

The game started in England, as is the tendency with cricket, but soon received a considerable boost when Texan entrepreneur Allen Stanford invested some of his millions in the Caribbean.

Then India gave the game widespread publicity by unveiling the IPL. Now there is a planned EPL in England and Australia is considering an upgrade to their competition. Twenty20 cricket is suddenly the rage. So what is it about T20 that attracts feverish interest and substantial investment?

Firstly, the fans have embraced it. Secondly, in a fast-moving world it requires a comparatively short time to complete a match. Finally, with all the hype surrounding T20 it’s easy to overlook another considerable advantage, equal conditions for both teams.

In most limited overs matches, one team bats in daylight and the other at night and if the pitch deteriorates it hampers the team batting second. A T20 match is played under virtually the same conditions.

While the game is often denigrated by being classified alongside a short stay with a prostitute, there is no better spectacle than a well-played match. The IPL franchise system also provides T20 with another huge advantage over its longer relation. In theory, every IPL game is between two evenly matched sides, whereas some ODIs are a mismatch.

For the sake of its long-term health, it is important T20 retains elements of a tactical battle and the thrill of a contest, with the result decided by the superior skill and thinking of one outfit on that day or night.

There’s a temptation to be seduced by the excitement of sixes regularly flying over the ropes. There’s no doubt the most thrilling and best-recalled moment of the tournament in South Africa was Yuvraj Singh’s six strikes in an over. Nevertheless, these performances should be the exception not the rule so they retain the quality of being rare. There’s another good reason why administrators should keep a eye on the correlation between bats and boundaries. Sure, the improvement of one and the shortening of the latter can lead to more sixes but that in turn will drastically reduce the importance placed on fielding.

Whenever the limited overs game is discussed, one of the first things mentioned by fans is brilliant fielding. Two of the most beloved players in recent memory are Jonty Rhodes and Andrew Symonds and while no one would classify either as a one-dimensional cricketer, it’s their fielding that first attracted the attention of the selectors and fans.

The other reason to keep an even balance between bat and ball is to ensure the game doesn’t literally become the stronghold of the “power” players.

The wristy Sunil Gavaskars of the world should occasionally be able to have their way with the gigantic Joel Garners and likewise the lithe Malcolm Marshalls should always be able to threaten the scone (and wicket) of a lanky Kevin Pietersen type. The contest is the thing that keeps people coming back to watch cricket whether it lasts five days, five hours or five overs. T20 is a vibrant game but the crucial job the administration faces is to get the balance between game and entertainment.