The International Cricket Council, the ruling body of the sport in the world, has given official status to the Twenty20 form of the game. Various domestic leagues have adopted this format and are gearing up for the Twenty20 World Cup, that will take place in September this year, in South Africa. That's right there will now be a championship that involves all the nine Test playing nations along with Kenya, Scotland and Zimbabwe battle it out, to see who rules in this further shortened version of the game.
When the present 50-over-a-side format was introduced, the purists of the game scoffed at it, saying it was ridiculing the pristine game of cricket and more. And then Kerry Packer arrived and the rest, as they say is history. With one-day cricket being accepted now for over three decades, it is probably the right time to introduce a world championship of an even shorter version. It's all about living with the times right?
The age we live in now is one that wishes there were 25 hours instead of 24 and everything needed to be done yesterday. In the wake of this lifestyle, a cricket game that lasts 3 hours is considered much more appropriate than the 7 hour one day format, and most definitely more desirous than the five day long Test format!
But before we go any further, let's get the basic fundas of Twenty20 cricket sorted out. As the name suggests this game is 20-over-a-side, with bowlers getting a maximum of 4 overs each to bowl. If the bowler bowls a no-ball the batting side will get 2 runs and the next ball is considered to be a free-hit, that is if the batsman is out, he gets another chance. The only way he can get out on a free hit is by being run-out, obstructing the field, handling the ball or hitting the ball twice, as is the case with the original no-ball rule.
Another interesting facet in this game is the umpire's role of awarding 5 penalty runs if he feels that the teams' wasting time. On fielding restrictions, for the first 6 overs, only 2 fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle. And after the 6 overs, a maximum of 5 fielders are allowed to be outside the 30 yards. Now the interesting thing, which makes it even more like a football game, is the law that comes into play, once there is a tie. Ok, now check this interesting rule: A max of 5 bowlers from each side deliver 2 balls each at an unguarded wicket. If the number of wickets is equal after the first 10 balls per side, the bowling continues and is decided by sudden death. Digest that, and coin a new phrase for this, but the ICC calls it a 'bowl out'.
In countries like England, Twenty20 cricket has been played at the amateur level and is a version that would go down well with the working ethos of the country. For instance, after a day's work you pack your bags and head to the ground for a 5:30 pm start and then you're home by 9, with the night still young! The English have lapped up the benefits of Twenty20 cricket timings and county cricket has received a huge fillip in this regard. Matches that were earlier attended by scarce crowds, are now, houseful. This new trend in cricket is considered a huge success.
Besides England, all the Test-playing nations have adopted this ultra-abridged format of the game in their domestic circuits and the response has been encouraging. Power cricket seems to appeal to a lot of the cricket loving fraternity, but there are some who simply detest this idea. For them Twenty20 is simply not cricket! It's almost farcical and quite obviously there's nothing in it for the bowlers who are anyway not the main benefactors of the game.
The idea of there being a World Cup for Twenty20 cricket is absurd to the purists. Ex-Aussie captain, Ian Chappell for one feels that it should be made clear to the world whether Twenty20 cricket could be taken seriously or whether it should be looked at as pure entertainment. If it's just considered to be just entertainment where the players are all 'miked' up then how can one have a serious World Cup Championship based on pure show biz cricket! The one-off international is acceptable but the thought of having a serious competition is disturbing to the old school of thought in cricketing circles.
Present day cricketers like India's Rahul Dravid have expressed their thoughts on the game saying that they felt that this was a format meant more for the younger generation where sheer force and energy would be the underlying powers. It was in this light that he, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, the old brigade of the Indian team have opted out of the Twenty20 World Cup to be played later this year.
Then there are other cricketers like Pakistan's Shahid Afridi who relish the thought of pounding the bowling on a world stage in this exciting format of the game. Most appealing to him is the fact that he can adopt his freewheeling style and pulverize the opposition bowling. In the other formats like one-day cricket and more so Test cricket, you have to limit your reckless and free-bodied stroke play and play more according to the need of the hour. But here it's crash, bang, boom from the start!!
Like it or hate it, Twenty20 cricket is here to stay. As the 50-50 format of the game has helped in making Test cricket more result oriented and more aggressive, perhaps Twenty20 will add an all new dimension to the game. Lovers of the game will have to just be positive and accept change, for that's the only constant, not only in cricket, but also in life
So, are you ready for a soon to arrive Ten10 world cup of cricket? Think about it, for it will last one and a half hours or thereabouts. More like dessert after a meal!
But what's the fun in eating the dessert, the fun lies in relishing the main course and that just has to be Test Cricket!
For now, eat on, and never give up the appetite for cricket! Burrrp!!