T20s: An ideal platform for the minnows to mutate
Accommodating more affiliate and associate nations in T20 matches may bolster the game's global presence apart from helping them excel.
Is it easy to run a 100-meter race than to compete in a 400 meter one? Is it easy to study two chapters for an exam than to study ten? Is it easy to compete in a T20 cricket match than to battle it out in the middle for five days? The answer to all three questions is a resounding yes.
Ever since the Indian Cricket Team won the inaugural ICC World T20, in 2007, Indian fans have been addicted to the format. They need their regular fix, and the Indian Premier League does that for them. Having passed its litmus test, T20 cricket is a perfect advertisement to introduce the gentleman’s game to the word. Its ungentlemanly essence may allure the high-octane American baseball fans. Maybe the Chinese can get into the mix, that itself will widen the horizon, literally. This is because T20s, in a way, level the playing field. It gives the minnows a chance, which is a rarity in the One-Day Internationals. The fact that they do not qualify for a Test status tells a different story itself.
After all, we are romantics who want a story. We don’t want to see one or two teams dominate world cricket. Everybody loves a challenger, and more so if the challenger is an underdog. There is a different sense of heroism attached to overpowering a giant, especially when you have been written off even before you have started. Apart from the poetry in the concept of minnows versus giants, the fact that a game needs competition is extremely evident. It gets boring if there are only a few teams winning. The interest then shifts towards seeing who can be the second best, but that is not what sport is. Sports is about being the best. Losing is fine, but aspiring to win and being the best at it is what connects billions to sports, and especially cricket.
T20s: An opportunity for minnows to progress
The cricketing world is poised perfectly for another chapter in its tale. Australia’s reign wherein they dominated all three formats of the game is over. They might be the world champions, but they know the Kiwis are brilliant. The West Indians found their swagger and they are the true ‘Champions.’ India, South Africa, England are still in the mix, and will always be, but the cricketing world needs more competent teams.
The minnows of the cricketing world are not bad teams. They are average teams but have brilliant individuals. However, this brilliance is not reverberated by the entire team, and that is their folly. Every now and then, you will come across an odd game where a minnow has turned out to be a giant slayer. More often than not, this anomaly takes place because of few individual performances rather than a team effort. Either a bowler bowls out of his skin or a batsman plays as if he is possessed by a spirit, and this too happens once in a blue moon.
This is because T20 as a format is dependent on individual brilliance. There is no mistaking the fact that it still is a team game and the law of averages will certainly back it. The point to note out here is that one batsman on song can change the fate of a T20 game in a matter of few balls. Bowlers need to bowl just four overs which certainly is a less daunting task than delivering ten. The margin for errors is less, the chances of a dropped catch or misfields reduce dramatically, all because you are sprinting and not running a marathon. The onus is on the top four, who by far are the team’s best batsmen, and they need to get the runs. All this lends more teeth to their attack. If not intimidating, at least their roar sounds convincing.
Helps game’s global expansion
The ICC is right in restricting access to Test cricket. Limiting the number of teams in the ODI World Cup is also justified. However, this needs to be balanced by giving upcoming nations a feel of international T20 cricket by including them in World T20 tournament. It seems pretentious that a World Cup features less than twenty nations. Upcoming T20 nations need to be nurtured.
If the T20 format is pushed as an Olympic sport, there will be a lot of grants by the governments of several nations to bolster their cricket teams. This in itself will be a big boost to take the game to a global level. This might happen in 2024 if Rome bags the bid to host the Olympics. The IPL along with other prominent cricket leagues can be leveraged to expand the game. Why can’t the Mumbai Indians play a three-match T20 tournament against Ireland?
Yes, these ideas may sound a bit ambitious; however a leap of faith is required sooner than later. T20s are an ideal platform for minnows to mutate and it is about time that the number of gentlemen in the game increase exponentially.