Can three formats of cricket continue?
With the fourth edition of the Twenty20 World Cup competition just around the corner, it might be a good time to ponder over whether the beautiful game of cricket can continue to exist with its distinctive three formats.
No matter how much we whine about it, the advent of Twenty20 cricket in the last decade or so has truly enhanced the global reach of the sport.
This slam-bang version has managed to instil excitement that has resulted in an upward surge in spectatorship, something akin to the buzz created by 50-over cricket when it was introduced in the 1970s.
With wickets tumbling unvaryingly, boundaries and sixes aplenty and electric fielding, it’s no surprise the younger generation finds themselves hooked on this format.
The Indian Premier League (started in 2008) is one of the premier T20 competitions at the moment, attracting a lot of glamour and truck-loads of money.
Moreover, with the constant presence of top cricketers, Indian film stars, cheer leaders and thumping music, the IPL extravaganza continues to rule the roost and is a huge money-minting proposition for advertisers and broadcasters alike.
In a similar vein, the popularity of the Big Bash Twenty20 league in Australia has been growing and – who knows – there might come a time when somebody suggests that the traditional Boxing Day Test match held in Melbourne every December be replaced with a game of T20!
Even though this is unlikely to happen, the mere mention to replace a historical event in the nation’s sporting calendar is just a reflection of the obsession people have with Twenty20 cricket.
The demise of 50-over cricket was apparent earlier this year in the Commonwealth Bank ODI series between host nation Australia, Sri Lanka and India. Even though the competition featured three top teams, one of the major talking points of the entire tournament was surprisingly, not about the quality of cricket but the empty stands.
The fact that the series was spread over two months didn’t help sustain viewership interest which helped lead to these small crowds.
While an ODI series between top teams would have whet any cricket player’s appetite in the past, the just-concluded ODI series between England and South Africa proved otherwise. With the number one ranking at stake, it came as a surprise that South Africa rested some of their star players such as Jaques Kallis.
Yes, South Africa is still a strong unit minus Kallis, but that selection move does convey a message of where the game or rather, the priority of teams is heading.
Moving on to the conventional format, I’d like to still believe that despite its duration of five days and lesser crowds, Test cricket is still the real deal, as it throws up a whole new challenge to a cricketer in terms of tactics, skill, temperament and endurance.
But to have the three forms of cricket co-existing with each other might be an unrealistic option.
Unfortunately ODI cricket, which finds itself caught somewhere in between the adrenalin rush of T20 and the long-windedness of Test match cricket, is on the backfoot and very soon might have to return to the pavilion for good.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.
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