Unpredictability gives Twenty20 unmatched charm

Cricket

Unpredictability gives Twenty20 unmatched charm

Not long ago, before India won the inaugural World T20 in 2007, the Cottonian Shield, a popular inter-school tournament in Bangalore, used to be a 50-over event. The organisers, however, turned it into a T20 affair a few years back, giving in to the popularity of the most abridged version.

That it could potentially play havoc with youngsters’ technique and temperament was quietly overlooked. The purists may cringe but there is little they can do about the increasing acceptance of the format even as the fifth biennial World T20 rolls on in Bangladesh on Friday.

As witnessed recently, T20 internationals nearly filled up the stadium in South Africa but Test matches, the format in which the Proteas are ranked number 1, hardly drew crowds in large numbers even if the opponents happened to be Australia.

The International Cricket Council wanted to use T20 as a vehicle to spread the game of cricket to the wider audience. Instead it’s the traditional cricketing countries that have embraced the money-spinning slam-bang game in a big way.

In its effort to maintain the sanctity of Test cricket, the ICC has limited the number of T20 internationals for a country (home and away included) to 12 (and 15 during a World T20 year) but the franchise leagues have ensured that T20 cricket is played almost through the year.

Besides the Indian Premier League, there are Big Bash (Australia), Ram Slam (South Africa) and Caribbean League (West Indies) that are hugely popular. The troubled Sri Lanka Premier League and Bangladesh Premier League made their presence felt while Pakistan and England have their own T20 meets run by their respective boards.

For all its tradition-defying style, there is one charming thing about T20 -- it doesn’t ‘discriminate’. Whether one is young or old, whether one has good technique or not, whether you have a big name or not. Everyone has an equal footing here. How else do you explain the return of 39-year-old Brad Hodge or the 43-year-old Brad Hogg to Australian squad for this edition’s World T20? The short format and without the ebbs and flows of a Test or even an one-day game, T20 provides some level-playing field for the less equipped.

Afghanistan may still be a long way from attaining Test status but they can fancy their chances against any top nation in T20. India were rank outsiders in 2007 but MS Dhoni’s men stunned the world to emerge maiden champions in South Africa. Pakistan haven’t played an international match on their home turf in ages but they still are one of the strong contenders to wear the crown for the second time.

The West Indies may still be some distance away from the feared side that they once were in Tests and 50-over cricket but they are the reigning champions of World T20. On the other hand, Australia, who have dominated the world cricket for well over a decade, are yet to win a World T20 title in four attempts.

 A Test match between South Africa and Bangladesh moves along predicted lines but a T20 contest between the same sides can throw in surprising results. Where in a longer version batting and bowling frailties get exposed, the very inadequacies are masked in the shorter duration.

There are no favourites and there is no fixed formula for success. A run-out at a crucial juncture or a tight over in the slog or a small cameo can turn the game on its head. It’s this unpredictability factor on most occasions that makes T20 for an interesting viewing. And dare we say, it’s here to stay!

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