Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Twenty20 impact

By Muhammad Asif Khan

More than a century ago when the game of cricket came into being it was just Test Cricket on display. The number of overs had no limit, yet the quality of the game was quite high.

After decades a faster version was introduced with a limited number of overs to achieve the target. In this scenario the players were forced to invent new ways to score. Here again the quality of the game was not compromised very much.

However, not so far ago, the fastest version of the game was launched — the Twenty20 Cricket. This is the point from where everything seemed to have taken a fresh turn.

In this format the number of overs is even less than the previous limited-overs one, so the batsmen remain on their toes all the time.

During the early days of the ODI cricket, the emergence of the World Series Cricket — organised by Kerry Packer — came as a jolt as it was seen as a factor which divided players’ loyalty. The storm triggered by the lucrative venture was somewhat controlled but it surely left its footprint. That was, to me, the beginning of the extravagance in cricket that has peaked today.

People at the helm back in the late ‘70s put a lid on the World Series, but they could not do anything about its recurrence in the form of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which began in the last decade.

Lalit Modi took the baton from Kerry Packer and with extraordinary amount of money the league was more than mouth watering for players around the globe.

Even the cricket administrators did not put their foot down this time around and gave their consent to what turned out to be a trend-setting venture.

This was indeed the beginning of a new era which changed the complexion of the game and its perception. But it was precisely here that the authorities should have played their due role.

Now everybody is in it and it is very much like over-cooked food which leaves bad taste in one’s mouth. Even a good thing can earn you bad result if it is overdone and same is the case with the mushroom growth of the T20 leagues.

After India, now almost every Test playing country has an indigenous T20 league where the players are given handsome amounts of money to basically entertain the audience. This trend is actually denting the game in many ways and here the International Cricket Council (ICC) should concentrate on quality rather than the quantity.

With the T20 expansion —mainly through these leagues — the game of cricket is seen as a three-hour entertaining show only.

Nobody remembers a copybook stuff but a towering hit. It is also taking its toll on good players around the world because when an organiser pumps in huge money then he would surely bank on top-class players to get good returns on his investments.

On the other hand, the players are fatigued because of non-stop traveling and playing. Several of them now have to make a choice between such leagues and the national duty.

There have been examples when players chose a league over a national assignment, and it will continue I am afraid.

This is not the only problem associated with this phenomenon. Apart from cricketers and their issues, this has also been tarnishing the image of the game in general. Ever since the IPL numerous corruption cases have come to the fore.

It has actually put an extra burden on the shoulders of the people responsible for the transparency matters.

Also, it has been a reason why a vast majority of people has distanced itself from the true version of cricket — the Tests. The ICC also has an idea of it and that is why they have introduced some colourful innovations to the longest format, but still a lot should be done.

In modern time people very easily associate cricket with fixing, and the reason is that the number of leagues made a bookie’s job a little easier and the non-payment episodes, such as Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the match-fixers.

Indeed capping a wrongdoing is very difficult but with the amount of cricket being played in the form of such extravagant leagues, curbing this menace has become next to impossible.

Everyone is trying to outsmart the other and in the process the game of cricket is suffering. The ICC has to take immediate steps to limit this practice.

They should put in place strict mechanism both for the players as well as for the organisers. Players should not be encouraged if they overlook their national side and the host cricket boards should also be penalised if a wrongdoing is unearthed in a league.

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