Does Twenty20 deserve to be the future of cricket?

14 October 2009

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Bright lights. Fast-paced action. Capacity crowds. Blaring Music. Welcome to the future of cricket.

With the summer of cricket upon us, questions continue to be raised about where the future of cricket lies. And there is only one answer.

Twenty20 was first played in English county cricket in 2003 and then hit the international scene in 2005. Australia and New Zealand played the first international Twenty20 match in a very light-hearted style, with the New Zealand players donning the old Beige uniform’s from the 1980s, as well as out-of-fashion moustaches.

Since then, the game has grown significantly, with larger competitions such as the Indian Premier League, The Twenty20 Champions League and the Twenty20 International World Cup being played and taken very seriously. It has also  captured the imagination of fans and players alike. It is a more explosive style of cricket that places an enormous amount of physical pressure on players and their fitness levels.

Twenty20 cricket is exactly what the doctor ordered for the game. Fans were very rapidly becoming bored with the sluggish Test and One Day International forms of cricket. But thanks to this game that emphasises hard hitting, full-length bowling and athletic fielding, the cricketing audience is now guaranteed a match jam-packed with entertainment.

It’s potentail to generate revenue is still being realised. Take the recently formed Indian Premier League, for example.  By recruiting the most exciting players in the world, such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Andrew Symonds, more audiences are certain to be attracted to the competition. Therefore, more companies will want to advertise and sponsor the teams, players and the game in general. Everyone benefits.

With only 20 overs per innings, fans don’t have to sit through a whole day of a test match or a day-night match that begins at 2pm and finishes at 10pm. Now, spectators can attend a cricket match that, with breaks, totals approximately two and a half hours, very similar in duration to other popular competitive sports, such as Australian Rules, Soccer, Rugby League and American Football.

However, what Twenty20 has done is almost destroyed traditions of the game. 

Cricket has always been a sport about correct techniques and patience. It wasn’t too long ago when spectators admired batsmen such as Steve Waugh for his tough and nuggetty batting innings that required incredible amounts of patience and concentration. Or how a crowd was enthralled with the classy art of disciplined bowling, where bowlers such as Glenn McGrath consistently pitched the ball on the same spot nearly every delivery. However, Twenty20 encourages young kids to completely disregard the traditional aspects of the game. It encourages younger players to bat like baseball players, to swing as hard as they can when the ball is in the slot. And the art of bowling is quickly turning into a farce as bowlers struggle to stop the momentum and flow of runs being oozed from big hitting batsmen.

It is inevitable though. Twenty20 is the future of world cricket. And when Shane Warne, possibly the greatest player to ever step foot onto a cricket field, begins to say that 50-over matches should be scratched and that Twenty20 “is the entertainment and fun side of the game”, the direction of cricket is clear.

Warne is probably right to some degree. Twenty20 cricket will become, if it isn’t already, the most popular game with fans, sponsors and broadcasters. The only way of holding onto some kind of tradition the game has developed for well over 100 years is to start playing day-night test matches, or reduce the 50 over game to 40 over’s per side. Hopefully, the International Cricket Council can come to some sort of conclusion.

But what is certain right now is that  Twenty20 cricket has arrived. And it’s here to stay.

Ben Waterworth is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University.