Watching a contest vs enjoying a party
It is with great pain that Robert Shrimsley, writing for Financial Times, calls a Twenty20 match a game of cricket, as his boy loves it, untouched by the absorbing potential of the 'real game'. He says the efforts to create a carnival out of the match, thereby undermining the attention span of the individual, cannot be the best way to prepare a future audience for the sport.
For the popularity of Twenty20 is an admission that cricket is too dull for the next generations. You cannot argue with the commercial logic – any more than you can argue against shutting music stores and bookshops. Lord’s was at least a third full for an unimportant match and it may be that this helps subsidise the less profitable games – the ones so poorly attended that they stop play and wait for you if you need the toilet.
But the question for me is whether these efforts to make cricket more digestible for bite-size attention spans might actually undercut the sport; whether rather than building an audience for the future, it is, in fact, ensuring there isn’t one. Someone once wrote of a long-dead cricketer that “small boys rushed to the pavilion gate, women put down their knitting and strong men emerged from the bar when Joe Hardstaff came out to bat”. Could Twenty20 ever inspire such emotion?