Bangalore v Chennai, IPL 2013, Bangalore May 19, 2013

"Minimise sixes" - Two words sum up farcical contest

The eight-over dash between Bangalore and Chennai was as close as cricket played on the field can get to cricket played on smartphone apps

One of India's greatest Test bowlers ever takes four wickets in two overs and then says all he was doing was counting down the number of deliveries that MS Dhoni could potentially dispatch for six each. "Minimise sixes," was what Zaheer Khan told fellow fast bowler Ravi Rampaul. So Twenty20, or Eight8, as was the case tonight, has brought us to this. Minimise sixes is the strategy for bowlers, as opposed to hit sixes for batsmen.

This is as close as cricket played on the field can get to cricket played on smartphone apps. Zaheer's two words sum up the kind of mutated farce cricket has degenerated into in the name of catering to what the fan wants. Where avoiding the maximum punishment possible is an achievement for a bowler. Where failing to inflict the maximum punishment possible is a failure for a batsman. Hyperbole or nothing. Repeated 96 times in the same loop.

On the face of it, this seems to be cricket. A bowler charges in and bowls. A batsman takes guard and bats. A fielder runs and fields. Runs are scored, wickets fall, catches are taken. But it reduces a fine bowler like Ravi Rampaul into spraying a big wide down the leg side the ball after getting hit for six by MS Dhoni. Never mind that the asking-rate is six runs per ball at that stage and Chennai Super Kings have next to no chance of winning.

It also reduces five out of eleven men on each side into hoping they are not hit for six off every delivery they bowl. Which could be theoretically twelve sixes in case of the bowlers who are allowed a "spell" of two overs each, and six in the case of those allowed only one.

One over? One? Jason Holder, Mohit Sharma, RP Singh and Vinay Kumar bowled four overs between them, and went for 63. As Zaheer said, you are up against as many as ten wickets over eight overs. It is the very definition of lop-sided. Will bowlers of the future grow up aspiring to bowl just six deliveries a game for a living? Will anyone want to be a bowler any longer? Will it even remain a specialised skill? Anyone might roll his arm over six times and hope and pray strongly enough to avoid conceding 36 runs. And that might be enough to win his side the game. Super Kings scored at 10.25 runs an over and still lost by 24 runs. Or four sixes.

Not that the Chinnaswamy crowd disliked what they saw. They cheered with all their might for every six, four, double, single, dot ball, and wicket the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsmen and bowlers came up with. If you go by stadium experiences during the IPL, what the Indian fan wants is to shout himself hoarse. His standard response to any action on the field is to scream, egged on by the DJs.

Inside-edged boundary by home batsmen. Scream. Straight six by home batsman. Scream. Leave by opposition batsman. Scream. Dot ball played by opposition batsman. Scream. Every delivery in the IPL is an event and an opportunity to scream, which makes for 120 such events in each innings, and 240 in every game. It is far easier for the vocal chords to keep going for that duration than for say, 540 or 600 times in a day. That is one of the reasons for the popularity of T20, or E8, for that matter.

Cricket has consistently kept crunching itself into shorter and shorter formats to be able to draw more and more people towards it. T20 might be the reigning star of the moment but how soon before people - especially the younger generation in India that is increasingly attracted towards European league football - start comparing it with an EPL game and point out it is twice as long, and maybe half as thrilling?

Will cricket then tag T20 as the dying format along with the ODI and move on to E8 in desperation? Why is cricket so insecure and desperate to hack at its own body to lure new fans? With so much hacking, what is it that they are being lured towards? So much chopping has robbed cricket of its character and soul. What is left is a hollow shell making and encouraging shrill noises and masquerading as cricket. T20, E8, F5, O1, call it what you want.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • nuwan on May 20, 2013, 6:33 GMT

    At least put the boundaries back to normal size please. It's very boring when the batsmen can clear the ropes regardless of the quality of the delivery.

  • Anantha on May 20, 2013, 4:08 GMT

    Cricket seems to be a unique game in this context. We cannot imagine tennis tournaments with one set or international half-court basketball tournaments or day long soccer games. But cricket is flexible enough to enable such vastly different formats to be played seriously. The fact that all these formats are so successful is a profound statement about the game of cricket. Let us not tarnish it by criticizing its flexibility.

  • Sadiq on May 19, 2013, 15:29 GMT

    Why compare t-20 with 5 day matches. They offer different perspectives and both have pluses and minuses. How many people have time and patience to watch 5 day cricket? Many times the going is so slow that even an avid cricket lover like me can get bored to death! And what about the frustration of not having a result after 5 days of toiling? Let's get real and enjoy the positive aspects of all three forms of the game: T 20, 50-50 and 5 day.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2013, 14:40 GMT

    Cricket be it an eight over contest or a test match is interesting. That's the beauty of the game, no format can be compared as such. Every format has it's merits. Yesterday's E8 game was just a once in a blue moon event, a match had to occur so as to not disappoint the fans at the stadium. It was fun and engaging right from the ball one. You are spot on when you say it is the closest cricket will ever come to smartphone cricket. But that's how the match had to be played, that's how an eight over game in the streets is treated anyway.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2013, 14:06 GMT

    The writer seems to be in too much love with tests. All the three of the formats have their own beauty and tests different skills of players. For example, you may not have all the shots in the book and still score runs in test cricket, as you can wait for your ball even if it takes 20, 25, 50 balls. You have patience, you score runs in test cricket. In T20, you cannot wait for your ball, you just do not have time. So, what happens to the batsmen is they evolve, they develop some unthinkable shots, which is excellent for the game in general.Also, regarding bowlers being punished, I think it is actually the other way round. in tests, as a bowler, you have to take 20 wickets, whereas here just do not concede boundaries, as simple as that. But consider the pressure on batsmen, you ve got 120 balls to play and score 180 runs(1.5 runs per ball!!!). Who said T20 is batsmen's game, it is actually loaded heavily in favour of bowlers!!!

  • vas on May 19, 2013, 13:31 GMT

    Teams are selected for 20-20 overs contest. When rain interrupts the play, overs have to be reduced. What other option organizers have? CSK team without power hitters, play best in a 20-20 overs contest. When overs are reduced they are beatable by teams with big hitters eg: MI(pollard), RCB(Gayle), RR( Watson) etc. Hope rain doesn't play spoil sport in the play-offs and finals.

  • JAYARAMAN on May 19, 2013, 13:11 GMT

    50 over and T20 cricket are entertainments only. Wicket taking is not at all the aim and run saving to the maximum extent is. In Test the aim is to take 20 opposition wickets. This clear distinction is not understood by people who are only interested in entertainment. This writer has already suggested that number of wickets should be restricted in 50 overs adn T20 matches.

  • Apratim on May 19, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    Would it be an improvement to scale down the wickets available to the batting team, in proportion to the number of overs in the innings? So each innings of a T20 game reduced to 8-overs-a-side would end after 4 dismissals instead of the usual 10.

    Thoughts, people?

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    Really good article! T20 has its place - I quite enjoy it. But E8? Honestly what kind of contest is that?

  • sachit on May 19, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    @Gridharan C++ seriously? It's gone the same way as tests. I loved coding it in the classic style just like tests but just like T20 the rave nowadays is python, Java and C#.