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Move over World Cup! Here comes Twenty20!
by Gulu Ezekiel
May 04, 2007
Cricket fans and journalists around the world rarely find themselves on common ground on any issue connected with the game. That in itself makes any discussion fascinating. But there has been worldwide uniformity this time around that the just-concluded World Cup was the worst of all time. And it was not the local organizers but the ICC, guardians of cricket around the world, who are to be blamed.

Now with Aleem Dar admitting the length made things tough for the umpires, we can all agree—journalists in their typical manner have been cribbing right through and numerous players, including Australian captain Ricky Ponting have all come out against the length and format of the tournament.

While most genuine cricket lovers would have cursed the bad luck of rain hitting the final and truncating it, instead there was almost a sense of gloating that the miserable tournament got the ending it thoroughly deserved.

You know something is really wrong when the ICC bigwigs themselves come out into the open and admit they blundered. The light issue right at the end really took the cake!

Among the feedback I got from fans and fellow-journalists around the world was one from a writer in England who came up with the theory that the Ninth World Cup in essence spells the demise of the 50-over game as we know it.

Yes, the 2011 World Cup will no doubt be a financial success in Asia. But according to my English friend, the way forward is now the 20/20 format.

Call it jumping the gun or call it uncanny judgment. The timing of the inaugural 20/20 World Cup in September in South Africa had earlier been condemned as premature. But if it is a grand success, will it mean goodbye to conventional ODIs?

If that’s a scary thought for traditionalists, think back to the launch of the inaugural 1975 World Cup (if you are old enough to remember!) and recall the sense of outrage among those backing Test cricket.

It looks like the cycle of cricket’s evolution has taken another turn.

Brian Lara’s words come back to me now. After announcing his retirement, he expressed concern for the future of Test cricket and emphasized that it is in his book the most authentic form of cricket.

Indeed, the vast majority of international cricketers will back Lara on that. But even they will be forced to adapt to cricket’s new financial demands.

Thirty years ago the public demanded a World Cup for one-day cricket. Now the clamour is for a 20/20 World Cup.

Or is it? There was notable lack of enthusiasm around India during the inaugural national championship held last month, despite the presence of the top international players, back home after India’s shock early exit from the World Cup. I was at Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla where only a handful of spectators turned up (free of charge) for the North Zone league and that too mainly to abuse and heckle Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh.

20/20 on the other hand has proved to be a massive commercial success in all the other cricket nations where it has been launched. Indeed, in Pakistan it has led to a revival in interest in domestic cricket which like in India has lain dormant for decades.

Certainly in England where it was ‘invented’, it has turned around the financial fortunes of many counties and this has propelled the ICC to launch the World Cup. This event incidentally will last two weeks which was the length of the 1975 World Cup while the latest dragged on for seven weeks. There is a lesson in that somewhere for world cricket.

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