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Baseball inspired T20, best format to sell cricket in US

india Updated: Mar 24, 2014 01:39 IST
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This week I drove to the Sydney Cricket Ground to work, but for a game played by teams of nine men. Yes, the famous ground was transformed into a baseball diamond, to host a two-game series between US major league teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This might seem sacrilege on a ground that was home to Don Bradman. However, back in 1932, when Bradman was touring North America, he met the equally famous George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth at another sporting cathedral, Yankee Stadium. The Babe asked Bradman what impressed him about baseball and he answered; “In two hours or so the match is finished. Each batter comes up four or five times. Each afternoon’s play stands on its own. Yes, cricket could learn a lot from baseball… there is more snap and dash to baseball.”

Some seventy years on Bradman’s wishes were granted and cricket did learn a lot from baseball. They devised a game that lasts around three hours -- T20. At the same time as the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks battled at the SCG (Dodgers won 2-0), many of the best cricketers were in Bangladesh for the WT20.

Appropriately, one of cricket’s great rivalries kicked off the main draw, India defeating Pakistan. It is similar to the baseball rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. One of the big attractions of T20 is that it’s more likely to involve upsets than the longer forms of the game.

T20 also affords the game its greatest opportunity to globalise. It’s impossible to sell Tests to major markets like the USA, Europe, Japan and parts of Asia where cricket isn’t a tradition. However, there is an opportunity to have those regions embrace a short version.

So, it’s interesting to witness the development of the likes of Netherlands, Ireland, Nepal and Afghanistan as they scrap for relevance in world cricket. The one name missing from those associate nations is the USA. Their progress has been slowed by in-fighting but maybe the emergence of the fledgling American Cricket Federation will finally get the game in the USA on track.

Cricket’s hierarchy would love to welcome the USA into the main draw of a WT20. If that does eventuate, fans could witness the reverse of the transformation the SCG has undergone, at one of the legendary homes of baseball, like Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park.