CLOSE-IN: Cricket will be a T20 affair

Cricket as a sport was associated with the British and the colonies they ruled. Sport was central to the way of life and the spirit of ethics and behavior. “It’s just not cricket”, was one of those statements that came up when someone’s behavior was not fair, honest or morally correct.

The game may have very few countries vying for supremacy due to the high standards that have been established over time, but it is a sport that is played even in the most remote parts of the world.

Wisden had published a marvelous book written by Charles Connelly called “Elk Quit the Game”, which embodied the magic and allure of the game of cricket. It tells stories of “cricket around the world”, played on tiny remote islands in the Pacific to the frozen expanses of Antarctica.

The interesting part of the book is how cricket has been adapted taking into account the prevailing environment and conditions. For most Asian countries, cricket is played in the empty spaces between agricultural fields, houses and in urban towns, on the road or even in the alleys. In India, cricket has found its way into every nook and corner of the country.

The appearance of television and mobile phone has brought cricket to the masses and the skills that a cricketer displays are now easily assimilated and learned by young boys and girls.

The migration of people from Asian cricketing countries as well as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and the Caribbean Islands to the United States, Canada, Europe , the Middle East and the Nordic Belt has made cricket the fastest growing sporting activity. .

In this scrum, one wonders where the game of cricket is going. In the United States, people in the information technology (IT) world made cricket a fun weekend. This is gradually changing as their children start playing serious cricket and this, it seems, will bode well for the game in the future. This is the trend that can be seen developing not only in the United States but also in other countries that do not play cricket in the world.

The perceptual shift in cricket among top performers is that cricket is going through a disruptive move. The game’s T20 format has thrust the sport into a different orbit. It has now become the core and hub of the game. Cricket through this shorter version of the game attracts millions of fans and followers as it is fast paced and exciting.

The conventional form of the game, Test cricket, will be there as the pure form for cricket connoisseurs. However, cricketers will play it more aggressively and boldly. Today’s thick wooden cricket bats, well-maintained outfields and wickets have made batting much easier. The battle between bat and ball is so much in the batter’s favor that scores of 300 are easily chased in the fourth inning.

England’s recent Test wins and Pakistan’s recent chase against Sri Lanka are good examples of how a team on the pitch struggles to control a batting unit. The ease with which hitters are able to get past the boundary or inside defenders makes it very difficult for a team to attack in the field. A top edge or even a hit with the bottom of the bat seems to sail through the crowd. The reaction time for defenders to catch or stop the ball has increased significantly. The normal catch-and-bowl that bowlers could hold on to has now become moot because rather than catching the ball, the bowler now ducks for safety with the umpire to avoid serious injury.

Test cricket can live for another decade. However, the One-Day International (ODI), 50 overs version seems to be the format that will gradually lose importance.

It takes us back to the early 70s when the limited version of the game became part of the international cricket route. It was about bringing spectators back to stadiums around the world. Lack of time made a five-day match a luxury that could not be enjoyed and as a result Test Cricket was rapidly losing its fans. The ODI was ideal for cricket as it brought the crowd back and the colorful clothing, encouraging quick runs and a definite result at the end, were the game’s boosting factors.

Change, as they say, is inevitable and therefore the ODI, we feel, will be replaced and revised by the T20 version.

Ben Stokes, the England Test captain and considered one of the best all-around cricketers in the world today, has become the first casualty to announce his retirement from the ODIs. He said playing all formats is very difficult for a cricketer as it takes a huge toll on the body. It is a good indicator of things to come.

Ravi Shastri, the former Indian manager and player, said franchise cricket should be encouraged. He is right because in the world of cricket, there is now an influx of T20 leagues in every nation in the world that plays cricket. The IPL in India and similar leagues have sprung up in the West Indies, South Africa, Australia, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and now in the United States as well . This shows the drastic change in cricket which gradually strengthens the game.

Cricket has become a business and cricketers are the ingredients on which it runs.

There will be a T20 World Cup for the countries. Cricketers around the world are not paid and looked after as well as their Indian counterparts. They will go where they can make a living, and franchise cricket currently seems the North Star to follow.

It will be T20 all the way.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Indian cricketer)

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