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February 14, 2009
Daniel Vettori reflects with awe and amazement at Twenty20's inexorable march to prominence. It was only four years ago that Vettori took the field at Eden Park for the inaugural Twenty20 international against Australia dressed in a skin-tight beige uniform and towelling hat, and sporting sideburns and a handlebar moustache.
That match, which Australia won by 44-runs due largely to Ricky Ponting's unbeaten 98, was viewed as a novelty by both sides. But when Australia and New Zealand stride onto the SCG for Sunday's 20-over international - just the third contested between the sides - all players will be performing under the eye of national selectors ahead of this year's Twenty20 World Cup and, more lucratively, before scores of Indian Premier League scouts.
"Probably if we'd looked at how successful it had been in England maybe [we would have seen] how it would have played out," Vettori said. "In such a short period of time you see how important it is, and see how it almost transforms people's lives if they're successful at that form of the game. It has changed a lot, it's changed the way the game's played. Guys are even more aggressive than what they have been. In the end I think it's been very good for cricket and we've got to continue to find a way to balance out all three forms.
"Everyone saw it as a bit of fun first up and played the game that way. Whilst everyone wanted to win it was still seen as a little bit of novelty. In the last couple of years with the advent of the Twenty20 World Cup, it really kicked it all off and showed how serious countries were about it, and how serious club teams are with the lucrative prizes there are for players and teams."
National sides are fast learning that Twenty20 is a young man's game that requires a skill-set different to other forms of the game; a fact reflected in the selections for Sunday's match. The average age of the Australian squad is just 26, and several of its members - most notably Rob Quiney and David Warner - are not yet permanent fixtures in their state's first-class teams. New Zealand, too, have rung in the changes, with the likes of Nathan McCullum and Ian Butler flown in specifically for the SCG encounter.
Perhaps Australia's most notable move is at the top of its chain of command. Brad Haddin, who only forced his way into the squad on a full-time basis last summer, has been bestowed the unexpected honour of captaining his country for the first time, and will do so before an appreciative home crowd.
"It's probably come about the same way with me opening the batting - through blokes being rested or injured," Haddin said. "I've seen the work Ricky [Ponting] has to do and it's an extraordinary role. To be quite honest, I've never really thought about doing it full-time. I don't think it's something that's a real goal of mine at all. I'll enjoy the occasion and do it as a one-off."
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