Twenty20 Cricket: A gimmick no more

Twenty20 Cricket: The genius of the game of cricket lies in its malleability. Not many sporting codes have cricket’s scope for continually reinventing itself and spawning newer forms without deviating too much from its parental values.

Five-day Tests, three-day Tests, One Day Internationals (50 overs), Cricket 40/40, Duckworth-Lewis method for revised targets and the newest innovation, Twenty20.

Exponents of the T20 game were accused of being too cavalier with the rules of a once great game. Purists were indignant at what they felt amounted to repurposing and desecration of the sport.

Reviled by critics as a shameless gimmick Twenty20 Cricket has rolled with the punches to establish itself as a solid offering. This offshoot will never replace the longer versions of the game in the hearts of the diehard traditionalists and purists, but it is definitely growing on many and winning over the skeptics.

Custodians of the game of cricket appear to have finally embraced the truism: adapt or die. In the past it used to be that the privilege to host tournaments was the exclusive preserve of Test playing countries. We are seeing efforts to widen cricket’s reach by exporting the game to other regions. As the game becomes more global more and more tournaments are being held in non-cricketing countries, especially those with deep pockets.

There is also the reality that the ranks of those with the inclination to watch grueling day-long proceedings punctuated by drinks, lunch and tea breaks over five days are rapidly dwindling.

With no shortage of counter sporting attractions cricket must acquire a competitive edge and find ways to put bums on seats, at home in front of TV screens and at the grounds. Our instincts for instant gratification draw us to thrill-a-minute, high-octane battles with nerve-shredding finales. Twenty20 Cricket fits the bill.

Only those clinging on nostalgically to a bygone imperial era continue to put cricket on a pedal and exalt it as a medium for delivering moral lessons. It has long ceased to be a cultural tool in the hands of the Empire. Today cricket custodians’ main concern is to provide entertainment and garner an audience. Twenty20 Cricket is a commodity directed at a mass market.

The Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash League are gaining in popularity. The financial rewards for organisers, players and sponsors are huge. Twenty20 Cricket is an innovation worth its weight in dollars.

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