Thursday, September 27, 2007

On the Twenty20 World Cup.

Finally!! India have won a world cup. After a long wait of 24 years.

As many have pointed out, India very reluctantly sent a team. The reluctance is accorded to the fear that if we do well in the Twenty20 format, we may kill the cash cow that ODI cricket is.

This is very evident from the fact that the BCCI sent, what they considered, a second team. The team did not consist of the so called big stars. What we all heard was the stars opted out. But, not many have noticed that the BCCI did not try to persuade them. In addition, the selection process for the event seemed almost callous. Ironically, this resulted in a team that was perfectly suited to the game - a team that was fresh, eager, enthusiastic and fielded and ran between the wickets wonderfully. More ironic is the fact that a team that was, I think, secretly selected for failure did the unthinkable - played without the fear of failure, as a team, and won the world cup.

An interesting point made by Rashid Latif was that Twenty 20 was a natural format for them. I would suggest that it is similarly, if not more of, a native format for India. Every game that I have ever played has been a short form, a Six6, a Ten10, a Twenty20 or at most a Twenty Five-25. This form is ingrained in Indians from when they begin playing. I maybe wrong, but I think the only way you ever get to play a form of unlimited overs cricket is when you reach the club level(very few matches) or first class level.

Am I happy we won the cup? Absolutely. Am I ecstatic? Maybe not. Do I think this is the best thing the Indian cricket team have achieved, ever? Absolutely not. This year? No, I rank our test series victory against England way higher. In the same vein, I wouldn't really care if we lose all ODIs from now till eternity(well, maybe not eternity), if we win the test series in Australia. We came really close the last time we went there and I hope we edge ahead this time.

The Twenty20 world cup has unarguably been a huge success with the crowds, the critics, the TV viewers, everybody else and their dogs and cats. I really like the format, both that of a Twenty20 match by itself and of the world cup too. The shortened match duration removes the boring period of ODIs where seemingly nothing happens and is sleep inducing. This was when the part time bowlers came on and tried to contain the batsmen who needed no second invitation. The brief duration of the world cup is a direct result of the short duration of each match. This has left most people wishing for more rather than the never ending wait to crown Australia as the champions.

I predict that the Fifty50 format will slowly die a slow and painless death. With Twenty20's explosive beginning people would realize what a painful process ODIs are. Sport is supposed to be about entertainment, tension and drama, but a majority of Fifty50 games do not provide any of these. Contrarily, Twenty20 provides all these and more in a much shortened time.

On the other hand test matches will (at least I hope) always exist. It is where the full skill of the players are on display. There is no better joy than watching Laxman and Dravid batting for a full day under immense pressure against an inspired Gillespie and Mcgrath, than seeing an jelly-bean-offended Zaheer Khan dismantle the English, than Dravid bat painstakingly slowly at Headingley in 2002 on a cloudy morning to thwart an English attack that was supposed to run through the Indian batting (well, I could go on and on). The longer format, due to the unlimited nature provides a slow simmering tension and drama. It is a format where the leave outside the off can often be more valuable than a slogged six. As for entertainment, I don't think anyone will disagree that a Tendulkar cover drive or straight drive, or a Laxman on drive is more pleasing to the eye that Yuvraj's six sixes.

To conclude, I think it will be Twenty20 and Test matches that will be the predominant formats leaving Fifty50 to die.

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