The ICC has stolen a march over the BCCI. How quick it was to see the popularity of Twenty20 cricket and conjure up a World Cup out of thin air. How slow the BCCI has been in comparison! India had played only one Twenty20 international before the World Cup, clearly showing how little importance the Indian board gave this format, which makes it amusing to see board officials now basking in the glory of India's T20 triumphs. And now, I think a more proactive board might have capitalised on the T20 fervour by altering some of the schedules against the Aussies and now the Pakistanis by reducing the number of ODIs and including T20 matches instead. But the BCCI slumbers while the world of cricket goes gaga over its new avatar. There are critics of the format too, but most of their criticism centres on a T20 versus Test debate which is pointless. The comparison should really be between ODIs and T20s, which I attempted in an article in DNA Sunday on September 23, that is a day before the inaugural T20 World Cup final. Here I've reproduced that article...
Fifty50 is dead. Long live Twenty20.
T20 takes the boring middle overs out of limited overs cricket, and that's good riddance, says Sumit Chakraberty
Fifty50 has a fatal flaw: the middle overs. Those come after the powerplay overs, when the field spreads out to block boundaries even if that means conceding easy singles. The problem is the batting side too is content at that stage to pick up the singles on offer, minimising risk to keep wickets in hand for the slog at the end. So there you have a situation where both teams are in defensive mode: a perfect recipe to put you to sleep.
The ICC recognises this and has tried to jog the one-day game out of its soporific middle overs by introducing floating powerplay overs, but almost invariably captains choose to finish those off at a stretch in the beginning. So nothing has changed: we have a beginning and end where the batsmen take risks, and a boring middle where nobody is in attack mode, neither batsmen nor bowlers.
Twenty20 is lean and trim, with no bulging middle, just a beginning and end. Is that any less of a game than a Fifty50 match where nothing happens in the middle overs except boring singles? Critics of T20 usually compare it unfavourably with Test cricket, but all those arguments would apply almost equally to Fifty50: that it is batsman-oriented, designed to produce fours and sixes, bowlers are reduced to a defensive role, there's no fair contest between bat and ball…
Twenty20 is a lottery, they said before the World Cup. And yet, it turns out that the batsmen who have done well are the usual suspects who have also dominated one-day cricket. Two of the semi-finalists were the same as those in the last Fifty50 World Cup. The other two were India and Pakistan, who brought young, talented teams and deserved their success. In fact, the T20 World Cup has had fewer major upsets than the F50 where two minnows, Bangladesh and Ireland, got into the Super 8.
It's probably true there's less time to turn a match around after one team gets off to a flyer, as India did against England, or takes a bunch of early wickets, as Zimbabwe did against Australia. But the better teams will still dominate the game, as this T20 World Cup has shown. It only means the result is a little less predictable than in Fifty50, and what's wrong with that? After all, to use an old cliche, "the glorious uncertainty of cricket" is one of its enduring charms.
One of my real concerns was whether the importance of taking wickets would be devalued with ten wickets in hand for just 20 overs of batting. But the World Cup has shown how rapidly wickets can fall when you have to score at 9 or 10 an over, or even 7 or 8 on a sticky wicket. In fact, the regular clatter of wickets falling has made the game more exciting than to watch a pair of batsmen keeping their wickets intact as they push the score along in singles and twos in the middle overs of a one-day match.
BALL BY BALL
The demise of spinners in the T20 format has been highly exaggerated too, as Daniel Vettori, Harbhajan Singh and Shahid Afridi have shown. In fact, it has been easier to use the pace of a bowler to clear the fence, as Yuvraj did six times in a row to Stuart Broad, than to put away a wily slow bowler who makes the batsman generate all the power for a shot.
It does get a little numbing to see batsmen trying to thump ball after ball. But that's also what keeps a spectator riveted because every ball is a contest, with bowlers trying to outsmart batsmen and vice versa. You could as well call it 120-120, because each one of the 120 balls in an innings is filled with drama. Add to that the cheerleaders, and an easily digestible three-hour duration, the same as a movie, and you have compelling entertainment. Who needs the ho-hum middle overs of a Fifty50?