THE OLD saying that the game is still the same and it's between bat and ball is still true. However, there has been such a radical change in approach and attitude in the last decade and particularly in the last couple of years since the T20 format came into the game that it is fair to say that the game is totally unrecognisable from what it was even a decade or so back.
Gone are the days of lazy mornings and afternoons where a batsman could take his time to get set and then play his shots as also the days when seniors were kept in the slips so that they did not have to run too much.
It is still a game where a bowler bowls and a batsman bats but by God it's action all the way from ball one and the crowd's loving it. It's not just a T20 match but also a Test match where the first ball is likely to be clobbered for a six and so spectators are advised to be at the ground well before the game begins.
When the limited-over version of the game came in, sceptics said that it wasn't real cricket and when it took root, they said that Test cricket would die. What happened was that Test cricket got more attractive with more action in a session than was seen earlier in a day's play. There were more shots played and less dot balls and that meant there were more runs on the board and more excitement for the spectators and viewers.
The T20 format has galvanised the game even more and, though it is palpably tilted in favour of the batsmen, what it has spawned is a new range of shot-making that is seeing more balls landing among the crowd.
The use of part-time bowlers in the T20 format is another aspect that will have a bearing on future limited-over games. Rohit Sharma, who hardly gets to bowl in the nets, has taken a hattrick and Suresh Raina has been cleverly used by Dhoni and has picked wickets too. This means that the skippers of their teams will have a few more options up their sleeves when the going is getting tough for the regular bowlers and may well mean a new look at the composition of the playing elevens in the future.
Test cricket will still remain the pinnacle for the players but as far as the modern spectators are concerned they are only interested in the now and not in the history books. Cricket still may be a game between bat and ball but it's a heck of a lot more watchable than ever before.