Twenty20 Worlds thrill the crowds
The inaugural Twenty20 world championships is taking South Africa by storm, thrilling fans who are drawn to the exhilirating speed of the high-octane game where anything can happen.Updated: Sep 12, 2007, 15:34 IST
The inaugural Twenty20 world championships is taking South Africa by storm, thrilling fans who are drawn to the exhilirating speed of the high-octane game where anything can happen.
The dazzling opening of the 12-nation tournament here on Tuesday saw the 33,000 capacity Wanderers stadium overflowing as fans "rocked the house, T20 style" to a gripping batting display by South Africa and the West Indies.
While records and sixes were smashed around the park with equal aplomb, groups of scantily-dressed dancers on platforms around the stadium roused the crowd to the tunes of in-house DJ Lady Lea.
A convincing eight-wicket win for the hosts over the West Indies despite Chris Gayle scoring the first ever century in international T20 cricket, left the crowd roaring throughout the match.
The lulls in crowd excitement and slothful progression associated with Test cricket were absent as the short format introduced fireworks, loud music and screaming fans that have been dwindling in other forms of the game.
"Twenty20 cricket is a 21st century sport, and we are delighted to be the first hosts of the world tournament in this exciting new format," said South Africa's sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile when opening the event.
The International Cricket Council has placed huge stock on the championships leading cricket into the future by capturing the imagination of younger fans.
"It's exciting, it's something new. It brings a whole new audience," said 16-year-old cricket supporter Lance Bunt from Vereeniging, south of Johannesburg.
West Indies supporter Sameer Wadhwa said he loved the pure entertainment of the game.
"I love it, it is very exciting. This sport is purely for the spectators and the spectators are having a blast," he told AFP.
While many of those in the old-guard view cricket as the traditional gentlemen's game not to be messed with, it is clear the new format of party cricket is here to stay.
Former South African captain Kepler Wessels said Twenty20 cricket was "still finding its place in the pecking order"
"It's just going to gain in popularity, we are going to see more and more of these matches," Wessels told AFP.
Despite the criticism of the shorter format, Wessels feels "everything has a place" and that it definitely has a niche-market.
Twenty20 is anybody's game and the words of bowler Shaun Pollock that there would be no time to choke rang true as South Africa managed to redeem itself after losing to the West Indies in the opening match of the 2003 World Cup.
"Either whack or go home," said fan Neil Watkins of Durban, summing up the "the much better, more competitive and more exciting" game.
The 12 teams participating in the tournament will fight a swift battle over the next two weeks, in intensive 20-over, 75 minute innings' with the final to be staged on September 24 in Johannesburg.