Once upon a time there was Test cricket...

Published: Monday, June 16, 2008, 3:35 [IST]
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T20 poses an actual threat to the traditional formats and potential threat to nation verses nation - the lifeline of the sport. Twenty20, a slam-bang version of the sport, packaged in three hours is a big hit with boards, players, sponsors and crowds alike. It surely is a good spectacle with a plenty of fireworks on and off the field, skimpily clad cheer girls dancing to some popular numbers, gets over in doubly quicktime - three hours unlike the marathon seven hour events and above all the games can be scheduled conveniently.

The biggest advantage the sport's governing body see in Twenty20 is its potentiality to make foray into the non-cricketing regions like United States, Canada, Western Europe and even to far off Russia. And earn Olympic berth atleast by 2016. Huge money is being injected into the system thro' T20, thanks to IPL and Stanford millions.

One school of thought believes it is a good advertisement for the sport because, say, someone like Phil Neville (MU, England) and Dwight Yorke (MU, Manchester City, Sydney FC and T&T), equally good at football and cricket when they were young, would now pause for thought before deciding which sport to pursue as a career.

But the Sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: Is the ultra-abridged version of the sport really a cricket? The sport's connoisseurs and puritans say it is not.

They reason out: 1) A true test of cricketer is his talent, technique and temperament and T20 doesn't test a cricketer simply because it never allows a batsman or bowler sufficient time to settle down in the middle and apply his skills.

2) Bowlers getting hit all-round the park despite a good line and length is no good for the sport. Spare a thought for bowlers: A game already loaded heavily in favour of the batsmen with the discriminative rules like power plays, free-hits for front-foot no-balls, strange wide calls and add T20 cross batted slogs to the list. The result: it only further make the contest a lopsided one.

3) It poses the actual threat to the traditional formats and to nation verses nation - the lifeline of the sport so far - five years down the line a club or city-based franchise as in IPL may refuse to relieve the players for national duty ditto soccer (as in major Euro leagues).

4) One-day cricket will be worst hit and probably may die a slow death for both the extreme versions has takers in boards, cricketers, traditionalists and MCC, the guardians of cricket. It is hard for cricketers, who very often say Test cricket is the best and nothing beats Test hundred, to resist the money lure of T20s.

The need of the hour is to strike the right balance between the three formats and ensure that the newest format does not take sheen out of the oldest and purest form of cricket-Tests.

The 131-year-old sport, which has failed to move out of the Commonwealth countries needs T20, a shortest, sexiest and action-packed sport, to make foray into non-cricketing regions. This new avatar will draw more and more people to the game (as is evident in IPL which drew a whole new audience base in women folk).

We need Test cricket for the sheer joy it provides playing or watching. Because no other form provides the opportunity to display courage, patience, skill, desire and heart to push yourself to the limit.

The ICC and the national boards need sit and draw a proper map on the current cricket landscape. They should ensure that the T20 leagues and internationals not override the traditional format/s by overdoing it. I personally feel a domestic championship, Champions league (if agreed by concerned parties) and not more than five T20 internationals a year. You cannot have more than a certain amount of Twenty-20 cricket because the standards of the sport are going to fall for sure, and also it could mean the death of Test cricket.

It is high time for the establishment to jazz up Test cricket with some improvisations within the game and a World championship.


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