Yes! I am a Twenty20 Convert.

2007 Sep 22 by DreamCricket

Like many other cricket followers I was slow in embracing the newest and shortest version of the game.

Like many other cricket followers I was slow in embracing the newest and shortest version of the game. It has been played at the domestic level for some time now and it was only a matter of time before it graduated to the international level. Sure enough New Zealand and Australia played the first Twenty20 international at Auckland in February 2005 but the game did not exactly spread like wildfire. However a few internationals were played between countries and the ICC saw in the format surefire family entertainment value which could spread the world over with proper marketing. And the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup has indeed served enough notice that it is here to stay beside the more traditional forms of the game Tests and ODIs.

It is only during the competition in South Africa that I have closely followed the novelty of Twenty20 and certainly as far as on the spot entertainment value is concerned it’s a winner. It runs for nearly three hours about the same time as an Indian commercial movie. And like most films the matches too can be termed as time pass. You see them, enjoy them for what they are worth and quickly forget about them. The ICC should be careful in promoting Twenty20. Too many such games should not be played and the format should be supplementary to Tests and ODIs. An overdose of it could certainly be counter productive.

But the Twenty20 World Cup has certainly attracted the crowds and no doubt a large TV audience the world over. All the razzmatazz associated these days with promoting an event has been in unmistakable evidence and the organizers have left no stone unturned in seeing to it that the spectators are entertained – if not by the cricket then at least by the jiving dancers just outside the playing arena! It would be a mistake not to take Twenty20 seriously. The more euphoric among its supporters have portrayed it as the future of the game. Certainly it has a place in the years to come and can’t be dismissed as just a passing fad.

I for one have found much to commend it. I don’t mind admitting that I was not very supportive of Twenty20 initially and I certainly did not want to see just fours, sixes and big hits continuously being rammed down the audience’s throats by over indulgent batsman at the expense of bowlers who would be little more than willing slaves. One can’t really appreciate a format which is lop-sided in one party’s favour. At least that was what I was led to believe by those more well versed with the niceties of the game. On the contrary what I have seen (and this is written just before the semifinals) is nothing so one sided in the batsman’s favour.

Oh sure, it has been raining sixes at the various venues but that’s to be expected when the duration is so limited. The point I want to emphasize is that the bowlers have not exactly been willing slaves just there at the batsman’s bidding. It may still be a batsman’s game – which version of cricket is not – but there is a place for the bowlers in Twenty20. For example we were given to understand that 200 would be par for the course in an innings but in a vast majority of matches the total registered has been anything between 140 and 190, Totals of 150 have been defended and in some games such scores have been passed only after the side chasing has encountered anxious moments. There have been several four-wicket hauls with these bowlers not even being expensive. Besides a bowler has picked up a hat trick and you don’t expect such feats associated with a format supposed to be totally dominated by the bat.

The point is that it is not just the bowlers who face the pressure of being hit for fours and sixes every time. The batsman too is under pressure. There is just no time to get your eye in with the result that the slog starts virtually with the first ball. Under the circumstances a miscued or rash stroke could well be the order of the day and this is where the bowler scores a point. A couple of dot balls and again the batsman is under intense pressure to get a move along and this also could result in a dismissal. Okay, so Twenty20 is not the highest art form. Skills and intricacies are at a premium. But watching the bowlers frustrate the batsmen by bowling yorkers, by pitching the ball at the pads and giving him no room to get away with the big hits for which he is all too eager has also been quite an experience. The batsman for his part has to be extra innovative and enterprising even more than in ODIs and this frequently has led to an engrossing contest. Perhaps it is only for the moment for one is not likely to recall these matches with much fondness but there is a role for Twenty20 in cricket. How big or important a role is for the ICC to decide.