Evolution of cricket: Is T10 the right kind of innovation that the sport needs?
Every tiny thing in the universe undergoes an evolution over a period of time. Cricket is not an exception to this natural change. Test matches, the root of the game, have undergone several changes over the years.
Earlier, timeless Tests were the norm in the sport. Then, the teams started playing Test matches within a certain amount of days. Later on, the Test match was universally adjusted as a 5-day format.
Besides, a new limited-overs format named One Day International (ODI) was born in 1971. Just like the number of days in the Test format, the number of overs in the ODI format was varied in the earlier stages. From the 1987 ICC World Cup onwards, the format was fixed as 50 overs per team.
In 2003, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) introduced yet another new format to the cricketing world – Twenty20 (T20). Slowly, the fans started to love the concept of T20, and the attendance figures increased gradually.
Then, the birth of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008 completely changed the entire cricketing landscape.
With the sudden boom of T20, Test cricket, the game’s purest format, has slowly started to decline over the years. So to bring back the audience to the game’s oldest format, the organizers tweaked the traditional 5-day format with a 5-day/night format.
So far, the day/night Test matches have yielded positive feedback. Even a 4-day/night Test match was played between South Africa and Zimbabwe in 2017.
Though the number of fans watching T20 is comparatively very high, Test cricket is still followed by a considerable amount of loyal fans. The audience count for ODI lies somewhere between the count of T20 and Tests.
With each format having a specific set of rules and a separate group of audiences, the quality of cricket has never been degraded. However, the recent inception of yet another new format, called the T10 League, seems a little dodgy.
On one side, a team (Rajputs) chased down a target of 95 runs in just 24 balls with a batsman (Mohammad Shahzad) smashing 74 of them in 16 deliveries. On the other side, a team (Northern Warriors) scored a mammoth 183 runs in their 10 overs for the loss of two wickets. More importantly though, the efforts from the fielding sides seem to be seriously lacking, with a number of dropped catches and missed stumpings helping the batsmen even further.
These kinds of high scoring matches can be a treat to the crowd gathered in the stadium. However, think from a bowler's perspective for a moment. The way in which the batsmen in the league are swinging their bats (without even properly watching the ball) looks a little ridiculous - especially since the bowlers and fielders don't seem bothered about the runs they are leaking.
The number of boundaries scored in these games will boggle the minds of ‘traditional’ cricket fans. But that kind of reckless batting has often lead to tame dismissals. In general, the quality of cricket displayed on the field sans the boundary count is rather poor.
Just for the sake of money, the organizers seem to have framed a brand new format without putting in the right kind of planning and thought into it. If this trend continues, then the day is not far away when the bowlers will be replaced by bowling machines.
The question also needs to be asked the T10 format will eventually replaced by a 5-over format. Ultimately, will the toss be used to determine the winner?
Instead of investing money in an ill-planned format, the organizers can try to look for ways to promote the game in countries like USA and China. This exploration into new markets will at least help the game attract new audiences and increase the financial market size.