World Twenty20 2012 October 9, 2012

Short, quick tournament for short, quick format

The World T20 was a three-week burst of entertaining and meaningful cricket; the administrators should resist the urge to expand the tournament and dilute its charm

Now the rains can come. Sri Lanka has waved farewell to World Twenty20 and, perhaps to its own surprise, has run a widely-praised, appealing tournament with considerable efficiency. The monsoon conveniently stayed away, the world's best cricketers have been on show in a meaningful competition and the game has shone with vitality and confidence. If only it was always so.

No sooner had World Twenty20 finished than the next show began. It is faintly ridiculous that opening media conferences for the Champions League Twenty20 were being held before the World Twenty20 final had taken place and that the Trinidad & Tobago players in the West Indies squad had only a few hours to celebrate their achievement before they headed to airport, after no sleep, for their flight to South Africa.

This is cricket's endless merry-go-round. Players find themselves team-mates one moment, opponents next, just by crossing a continent. Some do not turn up at all, such as Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan, whose priority is to get fit for England's tour of India. There is too much cricket, too many claims on too few players. So another tournament is denuded and spectators suffer as a result.

It is amazing that the players keep up. As they pull on new shirts, do they check the name tags to remind themselves of who they are and who they are playing for? When their agent tells them they have still to be paid for a particularly tournament, do some players scratch their heads and wonder: 'Did I ever play in that one?'

It seems counter-intuitive at best - some will say crazy - to consider the World Twenty20's place in cricket's overcrowded calendar and conclude that it should become an annual event, or at least take place in every year where there is no 50-over World Cup.

But the attraction of the World Twenty20 was that it had real significance at a time when so much one-day cricket serves little purpose at all. Do not doubt that this tournament mattered. Nobody needed a name tag on their shirts. They were there because they cared.

This was a competition that teams were desperate to win and supporters cared about. Coaches studied statistics and determined new strategies, particularly the importance of not losing early wickets, which had received little attention before. The shortest game suddenly felt longer.

Best of all, from start to finish, the World Twenty20 lasted a few intense weeks. The 50-over World Cup could learn something from that.

The tournaments that should be trimmed are the mountain of one-day and T20 internationals in bilateral series as cricket's caravan travels from city to city simply to fill the coffers of impoverished cricket boards and grounds and give the local fans a live game to watch that, for all their understandable desire to see their heroes in the flesh, will probably turn out to be much like the last one, contested by players running on empty.

The danger for the World Twenty20 is not that the administrators might one day imagine it as an annual event, it is that the ICC will allow the tournament to become a swollen version of its fit, lithe self, becoming more corpulent with age and losing its appeal in the process

The danger for the World Twenty20 is not that the administrators might one day imagine it as an annual event, it is that the ICC will allow the tournament to become a swollen version of its fit, lithe self, becoming more corpulent with age and losing its appeal in the process. Even now an influential TV producer is probably emailing an equally influential administrator to suggest how much more money could be made if it lasted twice the time, with twice the games, how much more television coverage, how much more promotion, how much more fun.

All such blandishments should be resisted. The short, quick game needs a short, quick format. Everything about it should recognise the impatience of its audience for instant gratification, a quick outcome and then the chance to move on to the next thing. Its momentum must be protected.

Then there will be an army of fiddlers tirelessly debating the tournament's structure. What can we do about the preliminary round, should points be carried forward into the Super Eights, do we need Super Eights at all, why should there be a Super Over for a tie in the group stage? All are fair questions. But when they are resolved, they should be resolved for a lengthy period of time and the administrators should be told to meet less and reduce their expenses. The 50-over game has long been undermined by such persistent meddling that it is a sign of sanity not to know, or care, how many people need to be outside a circle at any given time.

There is a warning, incidentally, for Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in the way they were often carelessly referred to in conversational shorthand during World Twenty20 as associates, mentally classified alongside Ireland and Afghanistan irrespective of the fact that Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are Full Member nations.

An overwhelming majority of onlookers paid lip service to the possibility of a giant-killing, but they did not want one so overwhelming that it would carry a weaker nation into the next round - instead they wanted to see it threaten, then fail. Afghanistan played the role perfectly. Too often, international cricket's appeal is restricted to the top eight and as Ireland and Afghanistan improve, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe decline. It is an unhealthy situation.

As for Sri Lanka, they have played their part well. It is impossible to put their achievement into historical context without being accused variously of being an LTTE sympathiser one minute, an apologist for Sri Lankan nationalist the next. But what is undeniable is that this is a nation free of conflict, full of new ambition.

Finally, with the considerable input of the ICC, Sri Lanka's hosting of the tournament embraced new standards. Gone was the confusion (many will prefer a more damning description) over ticket sales for the 2011 World Cup and England's Test tour of Sri Lanka later in the year. Instead, the World Twenty20 proceeded with an order and efficiency that Sri Lanka has never before achieved and new grounds at Pallekele, in particular, and Hambantota were uplifting places.

There is sadness and frustration in Sri Lanka at the loss of another final, but off the field the ICC has implanted a welcome maturity. It is those standards that their administrators, as they are once more left to their own devices, need to foster in the years ahead.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dean on October 11, 2012, 11:26 GMT

    @Indian76, I can't see your idea for the 12 team format working either. 39 games are still too many in my view. The super8 or the amount of games involved at that stage wasn't the problem with this event it was the pointless group stage at the start of the tournament which saw meaningless games between the top sides and a lack of competetiveness from the smaller teams. Your format would leave this stage of the event unchanged. There would also be the issue of Ban the hosts probably being knocked out of the competion after 2 matches. You would also run the risk of teams taking it easy in the super 8. If each team has 6 games at this stage they could win their early games and qualify early for the semis which could see them particularly with large squads rest key player at the end of the stage and give an advantage to the team or teams they are due to play at the end of the stage.

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2012, 23:19 GMT

    Thanks for this article! Our SL boys failed mentally: they did not have the proper mental discipline going into the final. SL needs a sports psychologist, and thought-control practice, prior to big games. Sri Lankans are well-known for their meditation, and, meditation should be an integral part in a day for all our cricketers.

    But, well tried Sri Lanka! Winning is not all. Hope you turn your mental game around, soon. You will be unbeatable like Ricky Pontings Aussies in the 2000's.

  • Prashant on October 10, 2012, 23:17 GMT

    @SirViv1973 - I also think that 12 teams is the correct number right now. The total matches would then be 39 with the format i suggested. I was simply outlining the logistics for 16 teams. Remember that it is a 20 over match that is less than half ODI. In my format, a team qualifying for finals would play 11 matches in 22 days, i.e. 5 or 6 ODI equivalent in 22 days. That is not too much. A larger bench strength will also help. Playing each other twice in the Super-8 stage will ensure that the stronger teams qualify with runrate less of a factor. You will have much more marquee matches, teams will have a chance to bounce back. Spectators & media will be happy. During group stages, matches against minnows can be played at the same time without affecting TV ratings. And one doesn't need to play 3 matches at the same stadium, play morning match in another stadium. You have to agree, more matches between quality teams = more fun !!

  • Dru on October 10, 2012, 13:22 GMT

    I must admit I enjoyed the T20 WC. It was short and packed with action and the two games a day was like a normal 50 over game but you saw 4 teams and innings. I dont understand what the fuss about too much cricket is! No one complaints about working everyday or too much work. Well we all do but the reality is we all get on with it and so must the cricketers. I am rather looking forward to the champions trophy - how can there be too much cricket for the fan? This is after all about the fans.

  • Mohammed on October 10, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    An overall enjoyable tournament - Constructive criticism if any would be - Once again Sri lanka refused to deploy the Video review system - key Umpiring decisions at crucial times may well have been reversed. It is important to have this as it gives teams/players a better chance. There were some glaring umpring mistakes. - The Pitches could have been better - The uneven bounce in the outfield was at times quite dangerous for fielders as the balls bobbled along and sprung up at the last minute..

    Overall well done to SL for hosting a very entertaining T20 world cup.

  • david on October 10, 2012, 10:23 GMT

    @TommytuckerSaffa has more or less said it all. T20 is dominated by luck and random factors, and as such is pointless because it gives very little gauge of ability- and surely for sport to be engaging ability must be central. T20 is junk food, 50 over cricket a snack, Tests a banquet.

  • sam on October 10, 2012, 7:39 GMT

    The number of teams don't matter -8,10 or 16 in such tournaments, be in 50 over or T20 format.Mostly a short burst of good form (or luck sometimes) is decisive in such tournaments.The teams other than the top 8 mostly put up a sorry showing and put down quality of the tournament in at the beginning as in the recent WT20 .Upsets do happen sometimes but they do not matter as the minnows get back to same level of mediocrity immediately afterwards.Also upsetting teams like England who are the symbol of mediocrity esp. in ODIs and T20s does no good as in the next match they get thrashed against good opposition.Holding a world title doesn't really say much as England and more recent India have proved with both struggling after the wins.

  • Phil on October 10, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    @CricketLifer: head to head results can't come into it since in a 4 team group, a tie between three teams will always have each beating one of the others - your complaint about Ind & Pak is not appropriate because it was a 3-way tie between Ind, Pak and Aus, each of who had beaten one other. Aus not reaching 112 would not have allowed SA to qualify (since Aus had more points), it would have meant Pak's NRR being better than Aus's, thus giving India the chance to qualify above Aus.

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    @CricketLifer If Aus failed to score 112, and SA beat India, then Pak and Aus would have qualified with 2 wins each. Aus would have been knocked out only if India beat SA by a big enough margin, because then Aus, Pak, Ind would have 2 wins each, and Aus would be out due to poorer run rate.

  • greig on October 10, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    I agree with Cpt Meanster T20 should be scrapped at international level and only used domestically (IPL, etc) to encourage/attract people to cricket. So many pointless ODI and T20 series bolted onto tours - purely for money making purposes and not the for the good of the game. Adminstrators really need to do something along with sponsors to sort this out. ODI series should be competitions instead, quadrangulars, tournaments, etc. There should be more iconic test series, test cricket should be reserved for the top teams only as 'the ulimate' test in still and format of the game from a competitive point of view. The Eng vs SA tour was a great example of pointless ODI and T20 series, after the test matches were finished, the ODI and T20s were a complete anti-climax and there was very limited interest. It should have just been a 5 match test series. The ODI series between Eng vs Oz just before the SAficans arrived was equally a complete waste of time. SORT IT OUT greedy administrators.

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