Monday, October 22, 2007

Odious ODIs v Terrific T20s

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.

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?


Ottayan said...

It has also put paid to Australia dominance.

I think it is the beginning of the end (Australia's domination)

Sumit Chakraberty said...

actually, australia i don't think is any longer dominant in odi cricket too. i doubt they would've won the series in india if gambhir and rohit had played in place of a couple of the seniors.

Stuart said...

:) I have been hearing about Australia's decline in ODIs even since Warnie missed the 2003 World Cup. I think that Australia's display at the 2007 World Cup was one of the clearest examples of their overall dominance of the game at the moment.

Having said that, the wheel always turns and Australia is going to fall from their present peak. I can still remember (try as I can to purge the memories) the mid 80s, when we were probably the worst team in the world. I hope that we never fall that far again.

It would be good for world cricket to see other teams step up to match Australia, rather than waiting for them to decline. Sides such India and England have shown that they can do it for short periods - here's hoping that the future has a number of years in which no team is truly dominant.

Ottayan said...


Australia won the 2007, purely because of their off-field tactics.

They sent a double agent in the form of Greg Chappell, who destroyed and systematically demoralised the Indian team.

But for this sly tactics, we would have certainly won the Cup. :))

Seriously,The Sri Lankan team is a bunch of flat track bullies.

They are just pretenders, who got lucky.

Stuart said...

""They sent a double agent in the form of Greg Chappell, who destroyed and systematically demoralised the Indian team.""

I love it :)

The really funny part about Greg Chappell was that everyone in Australia would have told India not to do it. He had coached South Australia for a number of seasons, and managed to get to finish second in most games. It was clear that India could have picked much better.

Dav Whatmore on the other hand is a bloody good coach. You guys could do much worse than pick him.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

stuart, you're probably right, australia will probably continue to dominate the game, not because of superior talent alone, but their superior administration compared to all other boards, especially the indians and pakistanis. your point about how the indian board made a poor choice in picking chappell, and a mistake in rejecting whatmore is a case in point.

Soulberry said...

I took my time in responding to this article ( fine analysis again ) because it questions some established "facts" and a position has to be taken.

It shouldn't be too difficult taking a stand on limited overs - I'd give up 90% of them for a few extra test matches anyday, yet such is life and we have to play ball with it even if it is akin to a concentration camp environment where the choice of prisoners is made by the warders.

Your articles have a connection and an obvious conclusion....the answer to this question are those - Why did India succeed so spectatcularly and unexpectedly in T20?

That's the question your sequence of articles raised in my mind. The answer is obvious - liposuction!

India fiddles Nero-like in the middle overs of a 50-50...much more than others do. The results are there for all to see.

I think the argument for virile and slimmer youth over aged obesity should rest here on this point.

In 50-50 (will not go away in a hurry till either England or Australia win the T20 WC), post liposuction of an Indian team, the youth could well dilly as the elders dallied but one can be certain their dillying will be more conclusive (either way)than the certainity of the current dallying.

Soulberry said...

The really funny part about Greg Chappell was that everyone in Australia would have told India not to do it.

Stuart, I was shooed out of BCC threads, club discussions, and sneered at in certain cricketing places when I wove an argument around South Australia just prior to Greg Chappell's appointment.

I had chanced upon an Australian site then (can't remember now which one) which tracked GC in detail. It was a blog and was very detailed in its perspectives on GC from a SA pov. Well researched too and with links to every salient point of reference.

Included also were interviews with some SA players...some of who were dropped or left the team then.

But I do not disagree entirely with the overall picture Greg painted...he didn't do it right and timed it all wrong. Surprising for a master-bat like him. There are important nuggets too one can work on in one's own way and pace.

I am glad finally sense prevailed on the GC issue and now he's safely esconsed in CA.

Sumit said...

soulberry, ya both cricket and india will benefit from liposuction :)

Sumit said...

soulberry/stuart: yes i remember a former south australia player's interview in which he spoke of how greg had destroyed a number of promising careers. the lesson is that great players rarely make great coaches. the best coaches in fact are those who have spent more time studying the game than playing it.

Vidooshak said...

The limit on each team playing only seven T20s a year makes zero sense, given the popularity of the format. The costs of staging a T20 as opposed to a 50-50 have to be lower. The upside seems to be that you don't have to skip work to go watch a night T20 game, so its likely that we will have full stadia..I don't get it.

Stuart said...

The point about great players not making great coaches is a particularly good one. John Buchanan (very limited first class player) has been followed by Tim Neilson. Tom Moody, John Dyson, Dav Whatmore - all good players with serious limitations.

How many great tennis or golf coaches were great players themselves? Its not common - most of the leading coaches are not ex-players. Great players don't always understand why lesser players can't match their standards. Geoff Lawson always said that Kim Hughes was a better captain than Greg Chappell in many ways, cause Chappell simply couldn't relate to non-greats.

Vidooshak said...

Interesting insight into great players making less than stellar coaches and vice versa. Perhaps the exception to this was Simpson, who was no mean player/captain himself and a very successful coach.

In general, I suppose mediocre players have to teach themselves cricket, while the great ones are born with the skills.

Sumit said...

yes, vidooshak, simpson's the exception that proves the rule, although he made little difference during his india stint...

Sumit said...

stuart, another great player who has been very poor as captain, both for india as well as mumbai, is sachin tendulkar. i think it also has something to do with the tendency of such great players to be controllers rather than facilitators and enhancers, which is what the great coaches do

Soulberry said...

Sumit, the latest is BCCI delays selection till after the Pak ODI series. How brainless is that! A captain needs time to plan/plot for a test match.

Sumit said...

soulberry, lack of empowerment and support is the bane of many things in our country. unfortunately, as commentators we can only comment on what we see on the field, and only indirectly link the flops to the administrators and selectors, while the players catch the bulk of the flak. and so it goes on. one day i'll switch to watching baseball, or become an aussie fan.

Stuart said...

Brian Lara is another example of a great player / poor captain.

Its like many teachers - the really smart teachers cannot understand why you don't understand. The ones who had to struggle to learn it themselves were usually the best at passing on the information in a digestible way. The great players cannot understand why everyone else doesn't find it as easy.

Lawson made on other interesting comment - he said that Chappell's long series of ducks back in the early 80s was great, as he finally understood what it was like to be fallible.

Uncle J rod said...

Geoff Lawson made good points, that does not compute.

Soulberry said...

Its like many teachers - the really smart teachers cannot understand why you don't understand. The ones who had to struggle to learn it themselves were usually the best at passing on the information in a digestible way. The great players cannot understand why everyone else doesn't find it as easy.

Well said Stuart.