March 24, 2014

Why T20 is a disfigured caricature of cricket

Scaling the contest down to 20 overs without changing the rules only leads to a grotesque imbalance between bat and ball
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Specialist bowlers have been increasingly marginalised in T20s © BCCI

I have previously argued that T20 is not really cricket. That was based, in part, on the simple observation that giving teams ten wickets to play with over 20 overs against nine fielders and five bowlers (each limited to four overs each) skews the contest hopelessly in favour of the bat. I used the example of Chris Martin (Test average 2.36), who was arguably the worst batsman of his generation. Martin was dismissed 52 times in 615 deliveries in 104 Test innings. He faced 11.8 deliveries per dismissal. Eleven Chris Martins would have fallen two balls short of surviving 20 overs on average.

Typically, the counterpoint to this view has been to simply say that T20 is "different". The more obvious differences lie in the creation of the World Twenty20, played twice as often as the 50-over World Cup; and the purchase of the biggest players and the biggest commentators, and the presence of the biggest sponsors, in the IPL. These aspects of T20 are supposed to grant it the legitimacy of being cricket.

Today, when most people watch T20, I'd wager that they think they are watching cricket. The more sophisticated T20 aficionados may concede that T20 is cricket in miniature. This is at least an attempt to affirmatively describe how it is different. These arguments also come with the usual questioning of motives and suggestions to the effect that one is free to stay away if one doesn't like T20. Let's set that nonsense aside, because cricket is important and wonderful.

In Test cricket, there are measures of merit that hold true irrespective of the outcome. It is possible to say what a good spell or a good ball is. It is therefore possible to say when a batsman has had some good fortune, or when a bowler has not. I'm not talking about umpiring decisions, but rather about things like a bowler beating the bat consistently on a given day, or another bowler getting a few cheap wickets. These measures of merit hold true irrespective of the outcome, and do so irrespective of the individual fan's belief in those merits, because in the long run, the former bowler is likely to end up with a superior record to the latter bowler. Line, length, pace, control, footwork, variation, mystery balls, the limits of mystery balls, stamina (mental as well as physical), concentration - all these things are discernible in Test cricket without as much as a glance at the scoreboard. A bowler can deliver a horrible over, full of half-volleys and long hops, that ends up as a maiden simply because the batsman kept hitting his cover drives and square cuts to two brilliant fielders. But it's still a horrible over.

I've been trying to work out what the measures of merit in T20 are, how we might tell a good T20 player from a bad one without looking at the numbers. So far, I've concluded that this is not possible in T20 because it features an overwhelmingly skewed contest between bat and ball. The argument that T20 is cricket in miniature is an example of the scaling fallacy. It's like saying we could have giant, human-sized bugs simply by scaling them up in the three cardinal directions. We couldn't, because their exoskeletons would be just too heavy, assuming that other things (like gravity) remain constant. Scaling involves unpredictable shape-shifting and occurs along many dimensions, not all of which are known at the outset.

T20 is not cricket in miniature, just as ODI cricket is not cricket in miniature. Yet, there are evidently some measures of merit in ODI cricket that can be identified irrespective of the outcome. For one thing, given the length of an ODI innings, batsmen have to construct innings. They can't take chances on the third ball. Batsmen also have to overcome different conditions - the ball gets old, it reverses (or it used to before they started using two balls), the pitch wears during the course of 100 overs. The cost of getting out is significant, given that teams have ten wickets over 50 overs and would like their batsmen to face most, if not all, of those overs. Since batsmen have to construct innings, a good line and length is possible beyond the perfect yorker. There are substantial periods in ODIs where fielding teams are not resigned to conceding one run every time the batsman doesn't miss the ball. A somewhat even contest is possible most of the time. This is not evident in T20.

I will provide some of the numerical evidence that forms part of the basis of my conclusion.

As a start, I'm going to compare T20 to Tests and ODIs. I looked at two measures. First, how often does a batsman who scores a particular number of runs (or runs in a given range) end up winning, losing or drawing games (or simply winning or losing them)? Second, how often does a bowler who takes a particular number of wickets end up winning losing or drawing games?

Test cricket
Test cricket is designed to be won by bowlers. A player who takes seven wickets in a Test is more likely to end up on the winning side than a player who scores 200. Taking wickets is a sure route to winning Tests. Bowlers who take seven, eight or nine wickets in a Test match end up winning nearly 60% of the time and avoid defeat about 80% of the time. These bowlers are three times more likely to win than they are to draw. Batsmen who score 150 to 199 runs in a Test are also likely to win or draw about 80% (but the likelihood of the result being a win is about equal to that of it being a draw). This holds true across a range of match aggregates for individual batsmen. Taking more wickets makes both draws and losses less likely, while scoring more runs only makes losses less likely.

© Kartikeya Date

ODI cricket
Things are different in ODIs. Batsmen have a greater match-winning role. This, as I will show later, also means a diminished role for bowlers. Getting bigger scores makes ending up on the winning side more likely, as does taking more wickets. The general shape of the contest, when limited to 45, 50, 55 or 60 overs at the outset, shifts slightly in favour of the bat. Playing substantial innings matters, as does taking wickets. There is a potential match-winning role for both batsman and bowler in this format.

© Kartikeya Date

T20
Bowlers who take three wickets in a T20 match end up on the winning side more often than bowlers who take zero, one or two wickets, and less often than bowlers who take four or more wickets. On the batting side, things are similar to ODI cricket as well, but the correlation between scores and win percentage is not as clear in T20 as it is in ODI.

© Kartikeya Date

Each interval in the ODI and T20 batting chart contains roughly an equal proportion of scores (1/8th of all scores in T20, 1/10th in ODIs). In each format, at least three-quarters of the scores made by batsmen are such that they are more likely to occur in defeats than wins. This is perhaps a useful threshold beyond which we can say that an innings has been built. The data for T20 cricket is noisier than the data for ODI cricket simply because fewer T20 internationals have been played.

But the threshold score - the lowest individual score that appears in wins more often than in defeats, such that almost all higher scores also appear in wins more often than in defeats - for T20 cricket is currently 29. In ODI cricket it is 42.

The overall economy rate in ODI cricket in the T20 era (from February 17, 2005 onwards) is 5.05, while the economy rate in T20 is 7.6. In order to reach the threshold score, an ODI batsman has to survive 50 balls on average without getting out, while the T20 batsman has to survive 23 balls on average, assuming that each scores at the average rate. In each case, the number of fielders, the rules for dismissal, the size of the boundary and the restrictions on bowlers remain the same. This illustrates the significant bias in favour of the bat in T20 cricket compared to ODI cricket. It also illustrates why ODI cricket has a place for the bowler, and why there are periods in ODI games in which bowlers genuinely have the upper hand.

I looked at the bowling average and strike rates of all bowlers who have bowled in international T20, ODI and Test cricket since the first international T20 game, between Australia and New Zealand in Auckland on February 17, 2005. Using this, I worked out the median bowling average and median strike rate for a bowler in each of the three formats. Then I divided the list of bowlers in each format into four categories:

1. Bowlers with average (AVE) and strike rate (SR) better (lower) than the median.
2. Bowlers with AVE and SR worse (greater) than the median.
3. Bowlers with worse AVE, but better SR.
4. Bowlers with better AVE, but worse SR.

This chart shows the share of the bowling in each format by bowlers from each category.

© Kartikeya Date

Good bowlers bowl more in Tests than they do in T20 or ODI cricket. Even though the limits on bowlers are identical in T20 and ODI cricket (a bowler has always been able to deliver no more than 20% of a team's total quota of overs in each form), better bowlers bowl more in ODIs than they do in T20 cricket for the period between 2005 and 2014. Weak bowlers bowl nearly as much as strong bowlers in the T20 game, while in ODIs they bowl about 3/5ths as many overs as the better bowlers do.

The economy rate can be derived here as well. The median bowler in international T20 concedes 7.56 runs per over. Sixty-two per cent of the overs in a T20 game are delivered by bowlers who concede less than this median economy rate. Interestingly, the corresponding figures for ODI and Test cricket from 2005 to 2004 are 5.14 and 69% (ODIs) and 3.38 and 76% in Tests. More profligate bowlers bowl most often in the format in which profligacy should, according to conventional wisdom, hurt a team the most.

This combination of facts is not surprising. The contest between bat and ball is more unequal in T20 than it is in ODI cricket. As a result, teams compromise on the quality of bowling most readily in T20. It is no surprise that the crack specialist bowler is an oddity in the standard IPL auction. These are dominated by hard-hitting batsmen and bits-and-pieces men who are also hard-hitting batsmen. Compromising on bowling is also a feature of bad Test teams - teams that tend to pick their fourth bowler for his batting ability and not because he is likely to get them wickets; teams chasing respectability rather than wins. In T20, this compromise is the rule, not the exception, followed by good and bad teams alike.

The three formats are different. From the point of view of the contest between bat and ball, given that the rules of dismissal and the number of fielders are identical in each format, shrinking the contest to 20 overs limits the role of the bowler to such an extent that the existence of the bowler in T20 XIs has become imperilled. T20 has eliminated those periods in the ODI format in which the batsman did not have the upper hand (due to the balance of resources). In some ways, even within ODI cricket we have seen steady changes to the rules, which have sought to either limit or eliminate periods in which batsmen do not have the upper hand. This occurred because of the original sin of establishing bowler quotas, which forced sides to play five bowlers. The pair of bowlers who bowled in the middle overs in most teams tended to be ordinary, and these middle overs became a stalemate, where the batting side was interested in preserving wickets and the bowling side content to concede about four or five an over. T20 has completed this segregation. Specialist bowlers are decidedly second-class, marginal figures in the new format. Their skill has ceased to matter.

If cricket is a balanced contest between bat and ball, then T20 is not cricket because it has marginalised bowling to a point just short of extinction. In doing so, it has also hurt batting. This situation can be remedied by changing the laws of the game. The details of these changes are for another post. But the laws of T20 will only be changed if the administrators are willing to accept it is not cricket. Until such time, it will remain a mediocre, disfigured caricature of a great sport.

Kartikeya Date writes at A Cricketing View and tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • akajaria on March 25, 2014, 7:24 GMT

    A great article - you have managed to substantiate what a large general feeling is in numbers with facts! Nevertheless, one has to agree that T20 does attract eyeballs so its important to preserve/promote it. A logical step would be retaining balance between bat/ball so that the T20 would be more representative of cricket skills as in ODIs/Tests:

    1. Allow only 7 wickets to fall per innings - the last 3 men don't get a bat - makes batsmen value their wicket a lot more and encourages teams to pick truly specialist bowlers/keepers. 2. Have requirements for minimum boundary size 3. Encourage spicy pitches/conditions that either offer bounce & Seam, or swing or Spin (this would probably hold good for ODIs too)

    Hope these make it to your second post

  • akajaria on March 27, 2014, 12:19 GMT

    Wow - looking at all the feedback, you surely touched a raw nerve!

    Those arguing for T20's importance and lack of interest in Tests: Yes. The article does not suggest T20s should be abolished. It merely says that it must be more balanced so that the three formats are all "cricket"

    Those arguing that T20 has its own dynamics and measures for good/bad: Agreed. But the article is showing how a "good" player is less of a force in T20's thereby awarding mediocrity. That T20 must have its own standards of strike rate and averages is not being challenged.

    So rules must change to make T20 more in line with other cricket without affecting the length of the match, franchise cricket, etc. etc. Would you rather watch Dale Steyn vs. Virat Kohli in a T20 or Santokie bowling to Kusal Perera? Right now probably both these combinations have equal impact on the game.

  • on March 27, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    One of the most brilliant articles that I have read for quite a while. I have always been critical of the shortest format...this article with its statistical backing and well articulated opinion puts words to my reasons.

  • on March 27, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    Agreed. Let's put it this way, T20s are for boys and Tests are for men. Surely any rampant hitter can become the most reliable player for your T20 side but only the classy ones makes your same list on a Test side. Also, these T20 super stars will be forgotten but the Test playing legends are remembered. You can argue T20 is just born and might produce legends. I'd bet you on that.

  • on March 27, 2014, 4:56 GMT

    Dear Mrt. Kartikeya: Let's look at a scenario where T20 was played way before Test Cricket was ever discovered. Lets say T20 (called say Pitch Ball) was played a number of years and followed by a number of countries with great popularity. Countries produced Batting and Bowling legends in Pitch Ball. Along came a version of 5 day Pitch Ball and a few countries played it, but the 20 over version continued to maintain the popularity. Few had the time of enthusiasm to sit and watch 5 day of Pitch Ball. Now, would all your sentiments have applied to the 5 day Pitch Ball under this scenario? Think about it. I would say not!

  • SutheeshKumar on March 27, 2014, 3:38 GMT

    Mr. Kartikeya, what are you trying to prove with all your painstakingly mined data. Ultimately cricket is a contest between bat and ball. Any sport or art is meaningless without patronage. The crowds at T20 matches and the TV viewership is all the statistics you need.The eyeballs these T20 games are bringing might benefit the other formats, if not filling the stadia atleast by TV viewership. I have been watching cricket from the 80's and i find this format great if not the best. No one, who has seen the recent World T20 contest between SA & NZ, in his right mind say that T20s are incapable of intensity,drama and thrills. There is no need to tarnish one format to make the other look good. Any such exercises seem churlish. Let go. Enjoy. Long live cricket.

  • irmark on March 27, 2014, 1:48 GMT

    I enjoy both cricket and baseball, the Contest between the bowler/pitcher and the batter, each individual ball is entertaining whether it is a wicket, boundary or dot ball If you appreciate the contest. The bowler/pitcher trying outsmart the batter.

    Baseball has an even more value on each ball compared to an At bat (closest equivalent of wicket). This pushes batters even fruther towards propensity for risky big hitting. a batter may still get lucky and hit a homerun off a great pitch, and scores are very low in baseball.

    But baseball is won by Pitchers

  • irmark on March 27, 2014, 1:42 GMT

    I'm sorry but while the much reduced number of balls greatly increase the need for batsman to take a risk, I think your analysis is very narrow. I agree it is not merely scaled, it has changed a lot wiht the shirking of overs. A single ball is Worth a LOT more, a single wicket is worth less.

    You looked only at batters runs vs bowlers wickets and complained that bowlers who take wickets don't win T20 matches. this may be true, But there is more to cricket that wickets, with the shift of value from wickets to balls, What about the number of dot balls a bwoerl or side bowls? How does that relate to which side wins?

    Yes it is very different there are combinations of pace, line and length which just would not work at all in Test, (where you can just see them out, wait for the bad ball) can be surprisingly effective and economical in T20.

    It's more towards baseball, which while you may not like at all Still has a key battle between the pitcher/bowler and the batter.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on March 27, 2014, 0:55 GMT

    No wonder Aussies dont take it-that-seriously. Else they would've dominated it like other 2 versions,won-most-versions of t20 wc tourney played till now. Were unlucky in w t20 in WI as 1 bad day-final-gifted mediocre Eng tourney.Well below own high stds.

  • on March 27, 2014, 0:28 GMT

    I agree that the T20 is game not much of a competition between the bat and the ball. However, like you mention its still evolving and will change. Some of the things that can be changed: 1) Like baseball we can penalize the batting team for a swing and a miss, 2) remove restrictions on number of overs a bowler can bowl 3) allow ball tampering with limitations. We have to think about ways to come up with solutions to keep the battle between the bat and the ball going even in a T20 contest.

  • akajaria on March 25, 2014, 7:24 GMT

    A great article - you have managed to substantiate what a large general feeling is in numbers with facts! Nevertheless, one has to agree that T20 does attract eyeballs so its important to preserve/promote it. A logical step would be retaining balance between bat/ball so that the T20 would be more representative of cricket skills as in ODIs/Tests:

    1. Allow only 7 wickets to fall per innings - the last 3 men don't get a bat - makes batsmen value their wicket a lot more and encourages teams to pick truly specialist bowlers/keepers. 2. Have requirements for minimum boundary size 3. Encourage spicy pitches/conditions that either offer bounce & Seam, or swing or Spin (this would probably hold good for ODIs too)

    Hope these make it to your second post

  • akajaria on March 27, 2014, 12:19 GMT

    Wow - looking at all the feedback, you surely touched a raw nerve!

    Those arguing for T20's importance and lack of interest in Tests: Yes. The article does not suggest T20s should be abolished. It merely says that it must be more balanced so that the three formats are all "cricket"

    Those arguing that T20 has its own dynamics and measures for good/bad: Agreed. But the article is showing how a "good" player is less of a force in T20's thereby awarding mediocrity. That T20 must have its own standards of strike rate and averages is not being challenged.

    So rules must change to make T20 more in line with other cricket without affecting the length of the match, franchise cricket, etc. etc. Would you rather watch Dale Steyn vs. Virat Kohli in a T20 or Santokie bowling to Kusal Perera? Right now probably both these combinations have equal impact on the game.

  • on March 27, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    One of the most brilliant articles that I have read for quite a while. I have always been critical of the shortest format...this article with its statistical backing and well articulated opinion puts words to my reasons.

  • on March 27, 2014, 5:20 GMT

    Agreed. Let's put it this way, T20s are for boys and Tests are for men. Surely any rampant hitter can become the most reliable player for your T20 side but only the classy ones makes your same list on a Test side. Also, these T20 super stars will be forgotten but the Test playing legends are remembered. You can argue T20 is just born and might produce legends. I'd bet you on that.

  • on March 27, 2014, 4:56 GMT

    Dear Mrt. Kartikeya: Let's look at a scenario where T20 was played way before Test Cricket was ever discovered. Lets say T20 (called say Pitch Ball) was played a number of years and followed by a number of countries with great popularity. Countries produced Batting and Bowling legends in Pitch Ball. Along came a version of 5 day Pitch Ball and a few countries played it, but the 20 over version continued to maintain the popularity. Few had the time of enthusiasm to sit and watch 5 day of Pitch Ball. Now, would all your sentiments have applied to the 5 day Pitch Ball under this scenario? Think about it. I would say not!

  • SutheeshKumar on March 27, 2014, 3:38 GMT

    Mr. Kartikeya, what are you trying to prove with all your painstakingly mined data. Ultimately cricket is a contest between bat and ball. Any sport or art is meaningless without patronage. The crowds at T20 matches and the TV viewership is all the statistics you need.The eyeballs these T20 games are bringing might benefit the other formats, if not filling the stadia atleast by TV viewership. I have been watching cricket from the 80's and i find this format great if not the best. No one, who has seen the recent World T20 contest between SA & NZ, in his right mind say that T20s are incapable of intensity,drama and thrills. There is no need to tarnish one format to make the other look good. Any such exercises seem churlish. Let go. Enjoy. Long live cricket.

  • irmark on March 27, 2014, 1:48 GMT

    I enjoy both cricket and baseball, the Contest between the bowler/pitcher and the batter, each individual ball is entertaining whether it is a wicket, boundary or dot ball If you appreciate the contest. The bowler/pitcher trying outsmart the batter.

    Baseball has an even more value on each ball compared to an At bat (closest equivalent of wicket). This pushes batters even fruther towards propensity for risky big hitting. a batter may still get lucky and hit a homerun off a great pitch, and scores are very low in baseball.

    But baseball is won by Pitchers

  • irmark on March 27, 2014, 1:42 GMT

    I'm sorry but while the much reduced number of balls greatly increase the need for batsman to take a risk, I think your analysis is very narrow. I agree it is not merely scaled, it has changed a lot wiht the shirking of overs. A single ball is Worth a LOT more, a single wicket is worth less.

    You looked only at batters runs vs bowlers wickets and complained that bowlers who take wickets don't win T20 matches. this may be true, But there is more to cricket that wickets, with the shift of value from wickets to balls, What about the number of dot balls a bwoerl or side bowls? How does that relate to which side wins?

    Yes it is very different there are combinations of pace, line and length which just would not work at all in Test, (where you can just see them out, wait for the bad ball) can be surprisingly effective and economical in T20.

    It's more towards baseball, which while you may not like at all Still has a key battle between the pitcher/bowler and the batter.

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on March 27, 2014, 0:55 GMT

    No wonder Aussies dont take it-that-seriously. Else they would've dominated it like other 2 versions,won-most-versions of t20 wc tourney played till now. Were unlucky in w t20 in WI as 1 bad day-final-gifted mediocre Eng tourney.Well below own high stds.

  • on March 27, 2014, 0:28 GMT

    I agree that the T20 is game not much of a competition between the bat and the ball. However, like you mention its still evolving and will change. Some of the things that can be changed: 1) Like baseball we can penalize the batting team for a swing and a miss, 2) remove restrictions on number of overs a bowler can bowl 3) allow ball tampering with limitations. We have to think about ways to come up with solutions to keep the battle between the bat and the ball going even in a T20 contest.

  • murali4 on March 26, 2014, 23:56 GMT

    I am not sure what you intend to say here :P .... do you mean to say that just conceding a few runs to save a match doesn't require as much of a skill as being patient to take a wicket in a test match or would you like to conclude that taking chances and making quick runs while also trying to preserve your wickets during the course of the match that lasts 120 balls doesn't require as much skill as playing 200 balls in test cricket to score those 60 to 70 runs

    please stop prejudice , it is just fast paced and requires equal amount of skill if not more .... you can see the quality of bowlers who have won matches in this format , they stand apart and so have demand.... the icing on the cake was when someone was drawing a comparison across completely different formats played with different targets, please be more clear in your views and not ignore facts or scenarios

  • v_giri on March 26, 2014, 22:19 GMT

    The restrictions for bowlers should be replicated to batsmen. A bowler should be allowed to bowl as many overs as a single batsman is allowed to last (Now one batsman can play all 120 legal balls). No more than 5 batsman like 5 bowlers. Like fielding restrictions in first 5, there should be unrestricted fielding in last 5 (like adding 2 fielders). Remove extras altogether.

  • shillingsworth on March 26, 2014, 21:38 GMT

    Most of the changes in ODIs had already skewed the game in favour of the batsman - free hits, fielding restrictions, smaller boundaries, bigger bats etc but it was still recognisable as cricket. Take away the fear of getting out and it's a different game entirely. The debate over which will prevail rages on but, with test cricket having been around for 130 odd years and T20 barely more than a decade old, the latter has a long way to go.

  • LeggieLefty on March 26, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    Make T20 a senior's game exclusively. You must be over the age of 35 and have retired from Tests to be eligible for T20. You must be selected by a club team. Club teams may be international. So for instance Italy, Finland or Malta could field a club team as well.

    This will make this a marquee parade for the world's best and then can be taken around the world - like a Formula One circus and used as a entry point for non-cricket-playing nations. "Here are the world's best showing you a sample of cricket. Come and see real cricket! Tests - the pinnacle of strategic game playing!!" You can keep the dancing girls and scantily clad cheerleaders. The uninitiated audience will need them to tell them when to applaud, when a six has been hit or a wicket has fallen. Put Bernie Ecclestone in chargeā€¦ he'll show us how to make money with a disfigured caricature of a once proud sport!

  • milepost on March 26, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    @landl47, I couldn't agree more. T20 has very few of the elements that make actual cricket so compelling.

  • landl47 on March 26, 2014, 12:55 GMT

    Whether you think T20 is the best thing since sliced bread or a waste of time and talent, the fact is that T20 is not cricket. It's another game played with the same equipment. It must be viewed differently from the game which has been around since the 19th century.

    The qualities which are valued in tests (concentration, courage, tactical awareness, consistency, technical skill, stamina) are almost entirely missing in T20. In their place there is hand-eye co-ordination, explosiveness, quickness- the characteristics of a short game. Bowlers aren't picked for their ability to take wickets but for their economy, fielders must be fast and able to throw and batsmen must score quickly, hitting lots of 4s and 6s.

    Personally, I find that T20 lacks almost everything I value in cricket, so I don't watch a lot of it. I understand that people who find tests boring like it and those whose time is limited would rather see a short game. Whether that enthusiasm will last, we'll have to see.

  • switchmitch on March 26, 2014, 12:25 GMT

    Can easily change the format rules and make it more interesting, an even contest between bat and ball. Only 5 players should be allowed to bat: 10 seems too excessive for a 20 over contest. No field restrictions: Batsmen cannot score as freely as they do now. No bouncer limit: Adds teeth to the pace bowlers' chainsaw. Batsmen will think twice before they attempt a hoick or a dilscoop.

    Just these three changes are enough to make the contest even.....

  • BasuC on March 26, 2014, 11:27 GMT

    I just see personal biases being imposed in the form of an article. The expectations are very different for each format and hence the outcome. Fixating oneself to one expectation and employing the same to all situations shows anything but wisdom. All these formats have their merits and different ways of applying the cricketing skills. the benchmark for good bowling/batting definitely changes. One concluding note: just what rahul dravid had once mentioned - It's the same, about good batting, bowling and fielding.

  • on March 26, 2014, 4:24 GMT

    "If cricket is a balanced contest between bat and ball, then T20 is not cricket" I still don't understand your concept of Cricket. Balanced does not means that a bowler should have an economy rate under 3 or a batsmen should not score a century within 20 overs. Balanced in Cricket means whether a batsmen or a bowler can change the course of a match equally. In T20 cricket, bowlers are considered good if the economy rate is kept under 6 and I'm sure you are aware that bowling a tight 6 to 7 run an over can change the context of the game in t20 whereas a maiden does not even matter in a test match.

  • Cool_Jeeves on March 26, 2014, 2:59 GMT

    It is a problem area only for India. Indians do not believe in bowling. We should reclassify ourselves as a batting team and not a cricket team. Other countries take a much more balanced view of the game, and produce and care for both batsmen and bowlers.

    The above analysis is flawed as it takes a single view of matches in India and abroad. Since in India the wickets are incredibly flat, and bowlers slaughtered all the time, the game looks skewed towards batsmen. It is different and far more balanced outside the subcontinent, perhaps even including Sri Lanka.

    My suggestion for world cricket (if cricinfo publishes my comments, which normally they dont) is that use test rankings for seedings in t20 international tournaments. Everything will take care of itself.

  • riprock on March 26, 2014, 0:24 GMT

    Analysis too intense. T20's can be seen like an alluring supermodel with attractive prospects in several angles. haha. Tests and ODI's are a bit like stable mistresses..each with varied traits and their own pros and cons

  • joe_sixpack on March 25, 2014, 21:22 GMT

    I never liked T20s and have long since given up watching them. I don't even watch ODIs anymore. There is simply no contest and the game is heavily skewed to favour batsmen. I'd like to see runs deducted for every wicket. And different forms of getting out would deduct different runs. eg. getting bowled or caught would deduct say 15 runs. That would reduce the wild slogging. Getting run out would deduct 3 runs etc. I like the fact that bowlers get penalized. A wide ball costs a run, plus has to be bowled again. Which prevents negative bowling. A no-ball causes a free hit. Great. Bowlers getting penalized for lack of discipline. I'd like to see rewards for the bowlers. That would make both T20 and ODIs much more watchable. Also, the penalties should increase in the equivalent of a bowler's power play. So the last few overs are not just slog fests.

  • on March 25, 2014, 19:38 GMT

    Who in their right mind could assert that Dale Steyns final over vs N.Z was not brilliant..how about Faf's captaincy in timing Steyn's overs? Only an idiot would say Malinga's bowling is not highly skilled.Similarly mystery spin is a match winning asset..Thahir,Mishra,Ajmal,Narine,Mendis ...David Warner was a 20 over guy turned test star...Shane Watson rebuilt his career in the IPL as did Mitch Johnson.

    Thus it seems that the recipe for 20 over cricket is genuine fast bowling,mystery spin and big hitting batsmen...dont sound too bad to me.

  • on March 25, 2014, 17:53 GMT

    A 1000m horse race is just as valid a test as a 3200m race.At the Olympics they give out medals for a 100m footrace and the marathon.A 1m30 rock song is just as valid a piece of music as Wagner's 3 Ring Cycle.Albert Camus' The Fall is regarded as a classic,even though it is barely over 100 pages whilst Tolstoy's War and Peace is nearly 1,000 pages long.Nope,I don't get what your saying.You still have to bowl the ball,catch it,throw it and hit it.No getting away from the truism that cricket is a test of skills and temperament first,physical fitness second.

  • on March 25, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    I'm a huge cricket fan, and my favourite format, by far I might add, is test cricket. But I cannot agree with the thrust of this article. Good cricketers win T20 matches far more often than sloggers who come off every now and then. Just look at the spell Bhuvie Kumar bowled the other night, 3 overs, 3 runs. The game was over after that and it was through genuinely good swing bowling. Look at Steyns performance, while the ordinary Morkel was getting slaughtered, Steyn was imposing his will on the match and he won it for SA. Look at Ajmal, Narine, Starc, Johnson, Malinga. These guys are quality in any format and they win a LOT of T20 matches for their teams. They have great cricketing skills and they are the dominant players perhaps because their skills transfer better, unpickable spinners and seam bowlers that can swing it early and land yorkers at the end are gold dust in T20, and those are highly skilled bowlers and it is quite evident who they are, no need for stats at all!

  • Insightful2013 on March 25, 2014, 15:15 GMT

    I agree Date, however as much as I dislike T20 cricket, I think it could be beneficial if used as a training tool. Stodgy batsmen can learn that runs can be acquired differently and bowlers can learn better discipline. The problem lies in that,most players appear to be unable to disconnect and their form suffers. It's not for the purists. Mark Demos, orabbani you just don't get cricket! Sorry. T20 is purely for entertainment. Date, article was a bit long winded.

  • damri on March 25, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    Strong case - Even without stats you pick the top 5 bowlers in the world - By any stretch of the imagination most won't pick T20 specialists for either ODI or tests simply because they are likely not to pick wickets.

    Short boundaries (which makes no sense) and field restrictions make it even worse - If bats become any better you can simply replace the batsmen with someone heavy who can match the ball timing - Slips, swing and flight go out of the game under normal circumstances in T20.

  • on March 25, 2014, 11:20 GMT

    Ignorant, lacking in any measure of common sense and quite frankly a waste of time in every respect. If you were to attempt to invalidate the motor car vs the horse or horse and buggy based on similar measures you could make a similar case. Cars go much too fast. They pollute the atmosphere. They go so fast that small animals and people are often killed. They can't be fueled naturally by stopping by the side of the road to allow the animal to graze or drink. They don't allow for passengers to enjoy the beauty of the weather or smell the fields or realness of a horses flatulence. T20 is the evolution of a magnificent game. It moves at the pace of the world in which we are now living. Bowling will have to evolve and adapt to take on the challenge of this brave new world and evolution of the game. Test criiccket was the pleasure of a world when players took 6 weeks to get to the other country and had all the time in the world. Adapt of die!

  • orabbani on March 25, 2014, 7:55 GMT

    Whilst I have sympathy with the author, unfortunately most people will view this article exactly like they view test cricket "Too long, boring". Not enough views on your article will mean a lower rate for advertisements and eventually it might be taken out all together. Sadly the same fate might befall to test cricket one day.

  • on March 25, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    Dear Sir ! First of all I must say congrats to you on being logical as ever. After agreeing with you completely on the worst balance between Bat n Ball in T20 I have 2 questions to ask you. 1. Why don't we discuss and look this T20 debate in terms of modern culture and approach towards the sport and specially towards cricket. T20 is here to saty and it is now fast becoming an old vs young kinda war. I am referring here to the advertising benefits, commercialization of cricket and all other things. without going into the discussion of good or bad, we can agree that this situation will not change. 2. As long as you are opposing T20 on the basis of Worst balance argument, I am inclined to ask you to write an article and tell us how can This balance be made reasonable or acceptable. I am saying this because, again. we know T20 cricket is going to stay here. And yes I believe that Test cricket is real cricket. Cheers

  • IndianInnerEdge on March 25, 2014, 7:18 GMT

    An awesome article, and fantastic analysis....at least will go some way in informing the rest of the world that there are many in india who are not punch drunk on the T20 shenanigans and love the purest form of the game to bits....:)

  • on March 25, 2014, 7:02 GMT

    I believe the essence is same in all formats of the game,also we have witnessed how good T20 format has been in Cricket.

    There is no point in complaining about T20 format, rather then I hope people wish for the good of the game.

  • mystic.referee on March 25, 2014, 6:50 GMT

    "ThinkingCricket: In Tests, bowlers have to toil for days on end bowling to set batsmen, who won't give them any chance."

    If you truly believe that, I cannot accept that you understand cricket.

    Or at least, I cannot accept that you understand how test matches are won.

  • ThinkingCricket on March 25, 2014, 6:37 GMT

    Also, and this is something I feel very strongly.

    It's Test Cricket that is balanced towards batsmen. That's because getting a batsman out is VERY tough, when he has no incentive to take any risk. In Tests, bowlers have to toil for days on end bowling to set batsmen, who won't give them any chance. This wreaks havoc on especially fast bowlers physique, but even their psyche.

    There's nothing balanced about Test Cricket either. Yes, in T-20 and ODI it's easier to hit, but it's also more necessary. It isn't tougher for a bowler to achieve victory, it's just that victory is measured in different terms (economy rates, and wickets that stop the run flow).

  • ThinkingCricket on March 25, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    I just can't understand the crusade against this format. Yes, the incentives in T-20 are different. That doesn't make it "not cricket" and solutions like 'make it only 5 wickets' miss the point.

    The idea of this format is to promote attacking cricket where scoring runs is more important than the negative aim of not getting out. Seriously before ODI/T-20, Tests were dull as paint. These games have made your beloved format pf 'true cricket' bearable, because players now try to play.

    Dimsissing T-20 batting as slogging, just fails to grasp that under different circumstances and with different goals you have to bat differently. That's the essence of cricket.

    Seeing the quality of matches and how much the players care about this, it's churlish to try and demean such a great event while it's going on.

  • 9ST9 on March 25, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    I beg to differ - I am not a expert like the author. But to dispense T20 as a different skill set is not quite right. The great test players excel at T20 as well. The best example was hot Steyn pulled the game back against NZ, the same fuming steyn who dismantled many a solid test batting line up. True there are exceptions - Pollard is a T20 star but not a Test player. But on the whole good test players excel at T20 as well. Despite it not being a true 'test' of cricketing abilities it IS still cricket.

  • Matt.au on March 25, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    @ Syed Raza Rizvi - absurdity of a test match.

    I guess one mans absurdity is another's pleasure. Did you see the crowds at the recent test matches in Australia?

    You said people can't afford 8 hours time to watch a ODI. What about those that can't afford 5 hours to watch a T20? I suppose making it T10 or T5 would be the answer?

    You also suggested perhaps modifying the game by having less batsmen. Why not scrub the 'keeper, and a couple of bowlers and call it ricket? It certainly wouldn't be cricket.

    I personally don't like the T20 format but understand that people new to cricket or those that want to have a bit of fun like it. Even some proper cricket followers like it.

    I've always thought I might like T20 better if all the players bar the 'keeper bowled 2 overs each. Any injuries to bowlers, the batsmen can nominate a bowler to take their place.

    The changing conditions over 5 days is the true test of a cricketers mettle, in my opinion.

  • ReverseSweepRhino on March 25, 2014, 4:16 GMT

    T20 is a batsman's game, because it was designed to be so. It is not an even contest between bat and bowl. Changing (or removing) bowlers' over-limits might seem like the right thing to do, but it might lead to teams swapping out specialist bowlers for even more batsmen-who-can-bowl-a-few-if-needed. Only two quality bowlers would be in each team, with purported "all-rounders" providing relief between spells.

    Getting rid of powerplays would be a better idea.Without being able to explode over an empty outfield, the top order batsmen would have to build properly. Edges and mishits would limit reckless-abandon-slogging and would make the contest between bat and bowl an even one.

  • on March 24, 2014, 20:56 GMT

    The nuances and eclectic aspects of cricket aside, we need to face one simple reality - cricket is a good exercise and a test of skill for the players and players alone. As far as we the fans are concerned, cricket is nothing more than entertainment. In these times of intense competition for our fickle attention, it is unrealistic to expect newer generations to sit for 8+ hours for an ODI, let alone put up with the 5 day absurdity of a test match. If there is any further scope for modifying the format, it will have to be within the confines of the 3-4 hour time limit (fewer batsmen perhaps?). Those opposing the T20 format are simply fighting a losing battle. I'm afraid that ship has sailed a long while back.

  • Bannerman165 on March 24, 2014, 20:48 GMT

    Your point on scaling is sensible. Not sure if anyone thinks T20 is broken (I'm not a fan as it is really just batting practice) but the point that 10 wickets in 20 overs is excessive vs say 10 wickets in 100+ in Tests or 50 in ODI suggests that the most elegant solution to scaling is to end an innings after 5 wickets. That way the team is divided between 5 bowlers and 6 batsmen (inc. the keeper) - a nice bifurcation.

    Reducing the maximum wickets to 5 would scale the contest nicely, it would require batsmen to protect their wicket to a greater degree. With 10 wickets the cost of going out is really only a dot ball (or at least less than four runs) so the incentive is to ignore the cost of an out and maximise runs per ball (almost a moral hazard).

    Good insight.

  • anton1234 on March 24, 2014, 19:57 GMT

    The best way to measure the effectiveness of bowlers in T20 is the economy rate and the impact they have at crucial stages of a match. Of course T20s will be an imbalance between bat and ball because of the short nature. Teams can hit out and still often expect not to be all out by the end. When T20s first started some 10 years ago par scores were probably 120 or so but are now around 150-160 and will probably be and will probably be 170 to 180 few years down the line. All this means bowlers with better economy rates and, even more so, those that can 'impact' (even if they go for runs) a match, will be valuable. This is why Steyn and Saeed Ajmal are great bowlers in this format. Great impact at crucial moments of a match.

  • cryptq1 on March 24, 2014, 19:18 GMT

    Agree that it's not cricket. Was discussing it yesterday. My stance was that if we have pitches where there's some help for the bowlers I would call it cricket. In that instance the best balanced team should have the better chance of winning. As it is at the moment one mystery spinner and 10 hard hitters will be a good team. Even Steyn's last over today, was it good bowling or a bit of stupid batting?

  • on March 24, 2014, 18:40 GMT

    T20 cricket; 20:20 cricket; IPL; Big Bash; etc - a chance for big corporations to advertise their wares to the public, with a few cricket skills thrown in to keep the crowd & TV viewers happy.

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on March 24, 2014, 18:38 GMT

    "T20 is a disfigured caricature of cricket"? Of course, did anyone pretend any differently? Certainly a tortuous way of proving the obvious has been used here. But T20 is not always mediocre when it comes to exciting contests.

    Perhaps T20 should be described as "crickhit".

  • on March 24, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    Good data-crunching. But if you look at what Saeed Ajmal did against Australia and Dale Steyn did against New Zealand, it seems there will always be room for bowlers, even in T20. In fact, captains and bowlers may well come to realise that the best way to contain runs is to take wickets

  • on March 24, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    Good data-crunching. But if you look at what Saeed Ajmal did against Australia and Dale Steyn did against New Zealand, it seems there will always be room for bowlers, even in T20. In fact, captains and bowlers may well come to realise that the best way to contain runs is to take wickets

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on March 24, 2014, 18:38 GMT

    "T20 is a disfigured caricature of cricket"? Of course, did anyone pretend any differently? Certainly a tortuous way of proving the obvious has been used here. But T20 is not always mediocre when it comes to exciting contests.

    Perhaps T20 should be described as "crickhit".

  • on March 24, 2014, 18:40 GMT

    T20 cricket; 20:20 cricket; IPL; Big Bash; etc - a chance for big corporations to advertise their wares to the public, with a few cricket skills thrown in to keep the crowd & TV viewers happy.

  • cryptq1 on March 24, 2014, 19:18 GMT

    Agree that it's not cricket. Was discussing it yesterday. My stance was that if we have pitches where there's some help for the bowlers I would call it cricket. In that instance the best balanced team should have the better chance of winning. As it is at the moment one mystery spinner and 10 hard hitters will be a good team. Even Steyn's last over today, was it good bowling or a bit of stupid batting?

  • anton1234 on March 24, 2014, 19:57 GMT

    The best way to measure the effectiveness of bowlers in T20 is the economy rate and the impact they have at crucial stages of a match. Of course T20s will be an imbalance between bat and ball because of the short nature. Teams can hit out and still often expect not to be all out by the end. When T20s first started some 10 years ago par scores were probably 120 or so but are now around 150-160 and will probably be and will probably be 170 to 180 few years down the line. All this means bowlers with better economy rates and, even more so, those that can 'impact' (even if they go for runs) a match, will be valuable. This is why Steyn and Saeed Ajmal are great bowlers in this format. Great impact at crucial moments of a match.

  • Bannerman165 on March 24, 2014, 20:48 GMT

    Your point on scaling is sensible. Not sure if anyone thinks T20 is broken (I'm not a fan as it is really just batting practice) but the point that 10 wickets in 20 overs is excessive vs say 10 wickets in 100+ in Tests or 50 in ODI suggests that the most elegant solution to scaling is to end an innings after 5 wickets. That way the team is divided between 5 bowlers and 6 batsmen (inc. the keeper) - a nice bifurcation.

    Reducing the maximum wickets to 5 would scale the contest nicely, it would require batsmen to protect their wicket to a greater degree. With 10 wickets the cost of going out is really only a dot ball (or at least less than four runs) so the incentive is to ignore the cost of an out and maximise runs per ball (almost a moral hazard).

    Good insight.

  • on March 24, 2014, 20:56 GMT

    The nuances and eclectic aspects of cricket aside, we need to face one simple reality - cricket is a good exercise and a test of skill for the players and players alone. As far as we the fans are concerned, cricket is nothing more than entertainment. In these times of intense competition for our fickle attention, it is unrealistic to expect newer generations to sit for 8+ hours for an ODI, let alone put up with the 5 day absurdity of a test match. If there is any further scope for modifying the format, it will have to be within the confines of the 3-4 hour time limit (fewer batsmen perhaps?). Those opposing the T20 format are simply fighting a losing battle. I'm afraid that ship has sailed a long while back.

  • ReverseSweepRhino on March 25, 2014, 4:16 GMT

    T20 is a batsman's game, because it was designed to be so. It is not an even contest between bat and bowl. Changing (or removing) bowlers' over-limits might seem like the right thing to do, but it might lead to teams swapping out specialist bowlers for even more batsmen-who-can-bowl-a-few-if-needed. Only two quality bowlers would be in each team, with purported "all-rounders" providing relief between spells.

    Getting rid of powerplays would be a better idea.Without being able to explode over an empty outfield, the top order batsmen would have to build properly. Edges and mishits would limit reckless-abandon-slogging and would make the contest between bat and bowl an even one.

  • Matt.au on March 25, 2014, 5:43 GMT

    @ Syed Raza Rizvi - absurdity of a test match.

    I guess one mans absurdity is another's pleasure. Did you see the crowds at the recent test matches in Australia?

    You said people can't afford 8 hours time to watch a ODI. What about those that can't afford 5 hours to watch a T20? I suppose making it T10 or T5 would be the answer?

    You also suggested perhaps modifying the game by having less batsmen. Why not scrub the 'keeper, and a couple of bowlers and call it ricket? It certainly wouldn't be cricket.

    I personally don't like the T20 format but understand that people new to cricket or those that want to have a bit of fun like it. Even some proper cricket followers like it.

    I've always thought I might like T20 better if all the players bar the 'keeper bowled 2 overs each. Any injuries to bowlers, the batsmen can nominate a bowler to take their place.

    The changing conditions over 5 days is the true test of a cricketers mettle, in my opinion.

  • 9ST9 on March 25, 2014, 5:59 GMT

    I beg to differ - I am not a expert like the author. But to dispense T20 as a different skill set is not quite right. The great test players excel at T20 as well. The best example was hot Steyn pulled the game back against NZ, the same fuming steyn who dismantled many a solid test batting line up. True there are exceptions - Pollard is a T20 star but not a Test player. But on the whole good test players excel at T20 as well. Despite it not being a true 'test' of cricketing abilities it IS still cricket.