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Twenty20 - Cricket on stanozolol
by Suresh Menon
Sep 10, 2007
Comedians from Groucho Marx to Robin Williams have been credited with formulating the American view of cricket as “baseball on valium.” Twenty20 is cricket on stanozolol, speeding up everything including the time taken for a new batsman to reach the wicket.

How’s this for irony? Now that Twenty20 cricket is here, one-day cricket is being termed ‘traditional’. This is the fate of revolutionary innovations – they go from being laughed at to being accepted reluctantly to becoming part of the establishment.

How will the even shorter game affect the merely short game? If Test cricket at one end of the scale is a mental game, Twenty20 at the other end is physical. It is like watching the highlights of a one-day international with all the boring bits edited out. Batsmen hit harder and more often, bowlers rush through their four-over quota and the fielders run faster, throw themselves at the ball with greater alacrity and get into unnatural positions to take catches. But that is not entirely what the game is about.

Twenty20 is cricket’s first attempt at becoming an inclusive sport. It appeals to the child in us, the same child who first played the game in the backyard pretending to be all eleven players of a World XI.

Most of us have memories of such games, where we were India or England or the West Indies or players like Tiger Pataudi or Garry Sobers depending on whether patriotism or hero-worship won out. The game lasted a couple of hours between returning from school and getting down to homework. Rules varied. You could be given out for hitting over the wall; there were extra runs if you hit the tree at mid wicket; if you hit the straight wall above a certain height, you could be out, below that imaginary line it was six runs. Depending on where you played, the rules changed. When my son was younger, we played a version inside the house. If you hit the window you were out; if you hit the TV, both were out (of the room, that is).

The International Cricket Council has removed the walls, taken away the windows, flattened the trees, put stylish clothes and equipment on the players, brought in live bands, and painted our childhood games in sophisticated colours. It is a fine example of marketing men taking something that already existed, refining it and fixing TV rights for it.

Twenty20 is the best package to attract new audiences in the US and China. And it could even be an Olympic sport when London host the event in 2012.

By then, Twenty20 might have made its greatest contribution, something first suggested by the Australian coach John Buchanan. Soon, he said, players will be able to use both hands equally effectively whether batting, bowling or fielding. You can see the advantage a true ‘all round’ player will have. As batsman he can drive the bowlers crazy with his constant switching of stance and ability to strike the ball on either flank. As bowler, he can keep coming at the batsman from different angles. And as fielder, he will have no ‘weaker side’ for batsmen to aim at.

Unlike one-day cricket which saw only a difference in degree of sophistication from Test cricket, it is possible that Twenty20 will introduce a difference in kind.

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