Wednesday, 10 June 2009

In Defence of Twenty20

I am, as most are, worried about the impact that the T20 phenomenon will have on the longer form of the game... however as I work from home and have recently acquired Sky Sports I feel I should share some optimism about what I have seen.

Watching a game develop in front of us, it is clear that the international teams are still finding their feet in this format of the game, field settings and balance of teams are still a work in progress. I find it fascinating to be able to watch the development of ideas and tactic in this form of the game, for so long has 50 over cricket become formulaic (and in my opinion dull) it is with real pleasure that one can watch on to see the steady development of crickets newest toy.

It is still not clear how best to set your fields in the first 6 over of these T20 games, some teams opting for fine leg and third man to be back and bowl full and straight, while others prefer to pull their length back and have one man square of the wicket and fine leg in the circle.

It is still not clear what types of bowling are the most effective in this format. Our domestic T20 league seems to point to the fact that spinners/ slow bowlers are the key to success, but some of the international teams have proven to the contrary perhaps due to the higher class of batsmen compared to the domestic scene finding the more gentle pace easy to attack. But in this shortened format it has been fascinating to see how some international batsmen just don’t have the skill or ability to get after the genuinely fast bowlers; anyone who watched the NZ Vs South Africa game last night would have seen that Guptill and Broom (both Kiwi internationals) were clearly not up to panning the Saffer quicks out the ground and succumbed quickly
trying to do so.

Seeing novel bowling methods has also been of interest, whether it be Broad coming round the wicket bowling wide yorkers across the right-handers, the ever increasing array of slower balls or the continued emergence of Mendis finding genuine confusion is a more useful tool then genuine turn. It has been touted round that T20 is a batsmen game, but from the games I have watched it is more often inspired bowling and fielding displays that have won games rather than big knocks (Gale not included).

A fairly obvious point about T20, due to its shorter length, means one or two big performances from a side can result in a victory. Although that leaves many feeling a bit hollow, I think it is great to go into contest between any two teams knowing that the game could be turned upside down by early wickets or an explosive first 6 overs.

Not many of us will forget the Netherlands game too quickly (I had the joy of being there live!) but it can’t be a bad thing for the game to see an increased competitiveness between all sides and I am sure the Broad final over must have been a catalyst to many a chat over the resulting weekend – often for me with people who I would not usually consider to be big cricket fans.

I must stress again that I would not want to see T20 cricket to eat away at any of our beloved Test match cricket, as the longest form of the game is the true test of skill and where I hope all future cricket stars will make their names. But I feel with the cricket calendar getting more and more hectic, and players complaining of burn out, this format could lighten the work load on our players while still filling up the stadium and create that cash for the county grounds. This could also create a great opportunity to promote the women’s games having a women’s match as a prelude to the main event.

We all know that T20 is here to stay and it seems as if it is only going to increase in its frequency. I just hope that it is at the expense of the 50 over format rather than Test cricket. There are 7 scheduled one day games between Australia and England after the Ashes this summer. I would assume that we will all remember the result of the Ashes, but wonder how many of us will recall the outcome of the 7 match series. It’s not Test cricket but I encourage you all to give T20 a second chance, not just as a cheap thrill but as another spectacle of this great game, and one is forcing players and coaches to think as deeply and innovatively as they have done in any format.

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