Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thoughts on Cricket

With the advent of T20, the face of cricket has changed drastically. While some people say that T20 is the future, we have purists arguing about the resurgence and importance of Test cricket. Most people seem to have forgotten the ODI, though Sachin's double century has brought it back into focus. So, the uncomfortable question is: are ODIs relevant any more? Should they be phased out like vestiges from a bygone era? Before you jump to any conclusions, take a few minutes to recall the following memorable events:
  1. The Titan Cup in 1996. Not a marquee tournament by any stretch of imagination. Sachin Tendulkar has been foolishly run out by greenhorn Sujit Somasundar, who soon follows to the pavilion. India-Australia league match, with India staring at sure defeat. The stands are empty, since dejected fans have gone home. Suddenly, in the most incredible last wicket partnership, local boys Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble go berserk, and India scrape through. Most anguished are the idiots who walked out of the stadium.
  2. The inaugural World T20 in 2007. India are overwhelming underdogs against the mighty Australians in the semi-final. Yuvraj Singh butchers the world's most feared attack for 5 sixers on his way to 70 off 38 balls. In the second innings, Matthew Hayden starts a predictable massacre before Sreesanth snares him, and the Aussies capitulate, paving the way for a  subsequently historic World Cup victory for India.
Which one do you recall more vividly? My guess is the former (assuming you followed cricket back then). Even though fourteen years have passed, an insignificant ODI league match draws more recall than a recent epoch-making T20 World Cup match. And therein lies the power of One Day cricket.  My guess is that people remember Rajesh Chauhan's last over sixer off Saqlain Mushtaq in Karachi in 1997 and Sanath Jayasuriya ending Manoj Prabhakar's career (though his final score of 79 off 76 balls with 9X4 and 2X6 does not seem that impressive anymore) in New Delhi in 1996 far more vividly than any T20 rampage by Yuvraj (barring his six sixers in an over against England of course) or Yusuf.

T20 matches are exciting, but have no character. One is just like another. While domestic tournaments like the IPL do give opportunities to a large number of promising players, the matches themselves hardly stand out. Almost every match follows the predictable pattern of wickets falling, one batsman going on a rampage before the tail pitches in. How many people remember anything from the two IPL finals we have had so far?

It makes absolutely no sense to have one-off T20 matches or even non World Cup T20 tourneys between countries. Domestic tourneys like the IPL and its regional variants are good enough to milk the cash cow for all its worth. International T20 should be restricted to the T20 World Cup (unfortunately its once in two years, though ideally it should be once in 4 years like the ODI or soccer World Cups, or the Olympics, to maintain its prestige and exclusivity).

ODI cricket could also do without the overkill. Test cricket is still the real cricket, and meaningless 3 and 5-match series and the Champions Trophy should be done away with.ODI matches should be infrequent tri-nation or quadrangular series that serve as gap-fillers between Test series, with the World Cup once in 4 years to crown the champions.

The goose does not lay golden eggs once it is dead.

1 comment:

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