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World T20: Not quite the perfect vision

For sheer buzz, T20 is unrivalled at the moment, having left One-day and Test cricket scrambling to inject new meaning. However, the world T20 has struggled to find context so far in international cricket.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2014 18:12 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
One-day World Cup

The One-day World Cup is almost a year away, but co-hosts Australia and New Zealand have already started the countdown. Melbourne city, the final venue, has already sent Brett Lee to India to encourage cricket fans to visit during the tournament.

Teams have already started planning for the event. The sub-continent teams are looking at ways their batsmen can counter the bounce on southern hemisphere pitches. However, this hectic activity contrasts with that of the fourth edition of the World Twenty20 starting in Bangladesh on Sunday.

For sheer buzz, the shortest format of the game is unrivalled at the moment, having left One-day and Test cricket scrambling to inject new meaning.

Attention on leagues
However, all the attention has surrounded the big leagues, the Indian Premier League leading the way with Australia's Big Bash coming next.

Any World Cup is the culmination of the best in a sport, the crème de la crème want to be judged for their ability to deliver under intense pressure. The soccer World Cup is a classic example.

Big deeds in major European clubs are followed closely around the world, but only performances in the quadrennial event are remembered for long, and recalled every time a World Cup arrives.

Such a straightforward comparison may not be fair as global football is a single format and entrenched.

Still, the WT20, the highest competition in a format that looks to draw in new fans and sponsors, has struggled to find context so far in international cricket.

Even this time, regular seasons have ended for Australia, South Africa and New Zealand while India, and many foreign players, already have IPL in their sights.

Indian fans particularly find it hard to connect as the national team has not made an impact since winning the inaugural edition in 2007.

"There is an overdose of cricket," says former India player and coach, Madan Lal. "If we find it difficult to recall performances from past World T20s, it is because there is so much cricket."

Superior stuff
He doesn't agree that franchise leagues have stolen a march over the World Cup. "The standard is higher, competition is superior. In fact, a lot of youngsters in leagues like IPL can't really cope with international cricket."

However, he agrees that the WT20 has a long way to go to come anywhere near the popularity of the 50-over tournament. "The One-day World Cup no doubt is popular, people talk more about it. The T20 format is shorter, performances are even shorter. If a bowler goes for 10 runs in one over, you would hardly remember.

"And then there is the skill aspect. In T20, you don't struggle for a wicket because the batsmen are hitting. Similarly, technique alone doesn't matter for the batsmen, he needs to hit out."

Former India spinner Maninder Singh is categorical: "I don't consider World T20 a real event. The real World Cup is ODI, and becoming Test No. 1 is the actual achievement in the game.

"In T20, any team can win on a given day. And there is no buzz in India because we have not done well. And cricket lovers have lost faith and interest (due to the IPL controversies)."

For Madan Lal, it is the established stars, who have clicked across formats, who will still make the WT20 exciting. "You only remember the players with class."

Maninder, however, has the final word: "The IPL has caught up, the World T20 hasn't. T20 itself is a seen-and-forgotten format."