Analysis September 4, 2007

A matter of formats

ESPNcricinfo staff
Ian Chappell

Ian Chappell

I'll bet the administrators wish they possessed a reliable crystal ball that would provide a glimpse of cricket's future. Especially when it comes to Twenty20, the shortest but suddenly most desirable form of the game.

The fans can't get enough of Twenty20, the players are starting to embrace it, and private promoters are spending millions in the hope of cashing in on the popularity of the sport's latest entertainment craze. The question the administrators would love to have answered by that crystal ball is: "Does it have a long and viable future?" If they knew the answer to that question, they would know what approach to take in regard to the 50-over game.

The traditional limited-overs game is a very valuable commodity; the showpiece World Cup drags in hundreds of millions of dollars in television rights and sponsorship money. In most countries it has underwritten Test cricket since the Kerry Packer-led revolution. However, though large crowds still attend and view the 50-over game, there is an increasing sense of disillusionment with the format, and words like "boring" and "repetitive" are regularly used to describe certain periods of the game.

There is so much 50-over cricket played, and yet so few of these games are linked in a meaningful way, that players become stale and the games take on a repetitive air. The obvious answer is to have fewer meaningless games and more matches that are linked to a prestige tournament involving only the stronger nations.

The limited-overs game has evolved in a haphazard fashion; a problem is perceived with cricket at large, and a new, shortened version of the game is immediately devised. There appears to be little thought given to how the different versions are integrated to form a viable and workable whole.

All the different forms of limited-overs cricket serve to popularise and finance cricket, but the weakness in the system is the main commodity - the players. All forms of limited-overs cricket are at their most entertaining when the best players are performing. Therefore it is the internationals who bear the brunt of the workload. And it is the nature of the game that the shorter the duration, the more the limitations of a player are exposed.

While the Kerry Packer-led revolution was great for the game, in its aftermath there was little planning, unfortunately, for the long-term future. No one formulated a plan to ensure that all layers of the game, from club to international and from limited-overs to Test, dovetailed in such a way that the players not only had a clear path to follow but also one that was sustainable.

Consequently, in this era of full professionalism, the best players are being worked to the bone. Rather than utilise one of the shorter forms of the game for the development and promotion of potential new stars, the administrators are looking to wheel out the current headliners at every opportunity. However, the game has a habit of forging its own path and private promoters tend to lead the way in this regard.

The privately run Stanford 20-20 competition in the Caribbean is genuinely trying to develop new players to help West Indies cricket move upwards. The planned Indian Cricket League originally talked about providing a similar path for young Indian cricketers but is currently looking more like a superannuation provider for ageing first-class and international players.

To properly develop a player's technique to the point where he can perform in a skillful and entertaining manner in any form of cricket, he needs time in the middle when he is young. Therefore he needs to regularly play longer forms of the game to develop into an international cricketer.

The time has come to devise a blueprint for the future; a plan for the game right from the school ground to club cricket, and on up to international level. Perhaps it's time to insert another layer, at the inter-city level, where the stars of the future can be groomed. The problem for the administrators is which form of the game to hive off to that level. This is why the administrators would dearly love to know the future of both the 20- and 50-over game.

The first Twenty20 World Championship would be the ideal time for all the participants to sit down and plan the way forward; the players, the administrators and the private promoters. And it wouldn't do any harm if there was a crystal ball sitting right in the middle of that round-table discussion.

Ashok Ganguly is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on September 5, 2007, 9:14 GMT

    Why have fielding restrictions set up like that? Yes it would encourage more attacking play at the start, but would also increase the variability of team scores - Either the start comes off or not and then that determines the outcome of the match to a large degree. It is the predictability that is boring in ODs, and that includes setting up rules to make tactics predictable.

  • testli5504537 on September 5, 2007, 6:13 GMT

    I like Test matches and I find limited overs cricket a bit dull, but I prefer 20/20 than 50/50.

    I think the ICC needs to change the rules to get rid of power plays and instead allow the bowling team to move a man out the circle every ten overs, ie overs 0-10 1 man outside the circle overs 10-20 2 men outside the circle overs 20-30 3 men outside the circle overs 30-40 4 men outside the circle overs 40-50 5 men outside the circle.

    Captains will be forced to set attacking fields for the first 30 overs you could the same with 20/20 but change the fielding restrictions every 4 overs.I think the major positives for 20/20 and 50/50 are the skills they learn from the shorter format. i think 2 day cricket with 80 overs a side could also help test cricket to become skillful and help with 3rd and 4th innings run chasers.

    the icc should also set up a five year home and away championship between all the test nations the icc should combining thier 20/20 50/50 2 day 80/80 and test matches to see who is the best team over 5 years, and also have compition to see who is the best team in the individual formats.

    have it first past the post with no finals this adds intrest to dead,flat,dull and boring cricket matches because every game counts to a five year championship, also have a 10 year championship or team of the decade were you add the 2 five year periods and see which team dominated the era they played in.

  • testli5504537 on September 5, 2007, 0:21 GMT

    In this modern age, the long form of the game can not survive. Yes some, but only some, test matches pull in crowds, but on the average, its a money loser. Let's not kid ourselves, this is the 21st century, not the early or mid 1900s. Back then, people had little else to compete with their time, so cricket was a winner. Today that is not the case. Five day test cricket, and even seven hour one day games, will not last. People don't have the time. Twenty20 is the future. One day, and that day, maybe very well be at the end of this century, Twenty20 will be the only kind of cricket. The first nails are already in the coffin. It will be a slow, painful, lingering death, but Test and ODI cricket will end. Test cricket belongs in a bygone age, along with Top Hats and curly moustaches, and ODIs was only the entree for Twenty20. Everything has to evolve, and for that to happen some things need to die. Personally, I see nothing wrong with this. The players complain about too much cricket, well here is your solution; no more Tests, no more ODIs, just Twenty20...problem fixed. This doesn't happen now or sooner than the end of the century, because, the game is being run, by old romantics, unrealistic dreamers, and economic deniers. Those very people will die out, but it will take time, 50 or so years. Once they are gone, the realists, and those raised on Twenty20 and who have no apprehensions of it, will take over, and Test and ODI cricket will be gone... That's life!

  • testli5504537 on September 4, 2007, 23:32 GMT

    This format may not appease everyone, but for the game of cricket to be feaseable, attractive, then it needs to be a format that appeals to the American public...sports by it's nature is something that Americans love. Now, as per cricket, that's a horse of a different color. For the cricket playing countries, it's important that 20/20 continue to grow and's the one thing that I see to save the game of cricket from obscurity...

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