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The good, the bat, the ugly

With BCCI announcing its own Twenty20 event, questions are bound to rise as to how far administrators will go in their chase for mega bucks, writes Kadambari Murali.
By Kadambari Murali | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 26, 2007 02:04 AM IST

Saturday in Bristol was one of those rare days. It brought forth that perfect one-day match — and as we tend to look at everything from a batsman’s perspective in the shorter versions of the game, this perfection was obviously from that same viewpoint. Bowlers, be damned. The team batting first scored well over six runs an over and still won the game by the skin of their teeth.

This is a familiar tale in most ODIs played on decent tracks throughout the year. Tracks are made to suit the batsmen and more often than not, we witness a run feast for 100 overs.

So under these circumstances, with lives getting busier and attention spans getting shorter, the advent and interest in Twenty20 cricket made perfect sense. After all, why should someone wait for seven hours to get to know the result of a game when you can have it all jam-packed into three hours or so, plus, of course, with the accompanying entertainment — music, mini-contests, cheerleaders etc — that doesn’t exist for the most in more serious cricket?

T20 had all the ingredients of an entertaining 50-over game, it is played on flat tracks, the boundaries are brought in to ensure mores hits to and over the fence and, to top it all, as the games are basically eveningers, you don’t have to take off from office or school to watch the game.

It seemed like an advertiser’s dream and was manna from the heavens for cricket’s organisers. So it is little surprise that less than a year or so after India played their first Twenty20 international and the BCCI thumbed its collective nose at this bastardised version of the game, they are the first ‘official’ board that is preparing to jump on to the T20 bandwagon in a mega way with the concepts of the Premier Cricket League and the Champions Cricket League.

If the BCCI, as it says, has been thinking about this for a while, why is it any surprise that Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford or Essel group head Subhash Chandra see Twenty20 cricket as the way to bullion bank?

While the ICC, itself having got itself a T20 World Cup, is keeping mum on so-called “domestic” events, it’s high time people started looking at T20 (the cricketing part) more seriously.

Straight off, the proposed events will add to an already cramped international schedule. If the BCCI’s corporatised domestic calendar takes off, they will of course say that it is up to the players to choose to be “bought” by a corporate and play even more cricket.

But two things here, if a company wants to cash in on buying the franchise for a team, it will obviously want some stars to add value and will throw megabucks at that star. Two, which player, however starry, will refuse a few crore (the cap is expected to be between $1-2 million)?

The face of the game is changing too, as time progresses we’ll doubtless see more and more T20 specialists, people who can hit the first ball they face out of the ground and bowlers who can keep the economy rate under 7/over.

The pundits have argued that there’s no time to showcase your skills in a 20-over dash, that there’s no time to build an innings or set up a dismissal but well, that’s what’s happening in countless One-dayers today.

Thirty overs (20 overs of power plays and 10 at the death) of every 50 over game are made for pure innovation (or slogging) for batsmen and containment for bowlers. T20 has taken it a step further by removing those relatively sluggish 20 overs from the 21st to the 40th.

Wickets aren’t at a premium as even if you lose a wicket every 12th ball, you can last the innings. Bowlers of course, don’t have time to get their line or rhythm right as most will get 12-ball spells.

Many also say that it would kill Test cricket, but it might have the completely opposite effect. Interest in Test cricket, interestingly, has shot up dramatically of late and the true fan would logically be more inclined to watch a real battle of skill, character and nerves over tough sessions of play. If anything, it might damage the popularity of One-day cricket.

The flip side of T20 could be the influence on youngsters, as kids who will grow up watching slam-bang cricket would find it difficult to relate to the technique and subtleties of this game.

Will they be the casualties of war? We’ll have to wait and watch.

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