ICC World Twenty20 2009 June 19, 2009

Is there a World Cup on?

You wouldn't know from reading the UK papers that cricket's biggest event of the month was in town

Cricket's biggest event of the month, whether you like Twenty20 or not, is on in England, but if you open a newspaper in London, you'd think it was a non-event. Or, at best, a marginal event.

True, the hosts are no longer in the tournament, but no one expected them to be; Australia were sent packing early; and India, the title holders, went out without registering their presence. But it has been a dramatic and compelling tournament, and at the time of writing, three of the most interesting teams remain in the fray. Yet the interest in the tournament, if you went by the column inches in the newspapers, is comfortably behind that for tennis, rugby, horse-racing and golf.

Has cricket become so irrelevant in the country that used to be its home, or has England grown insular? Or is it just plain snobbery about the Ashes?

I came across a line in a newspaper that put the semi-final between the English and Australian women's teams in perspective. It reminded Charlotte Edwards, the England captain, about her responsibility towards the main cause: a win for England would be vital in boosting the morale of the men's team as they prepare for the Ashes.

Really? How about the men doing their bit? The England women are the current holders of the Ashes and world champions in the 50-over game. And they are the ones with a chance to win the top prize in Twenty20. What about some respect?

The Ashes was always billed as the main cricket event of the year, but the lack of enthusiasm for the World Twenty20 is utterly baffling, if not self-defeating. I was in South Africa during the closing stages of the inaugural tournament and it was hard to miss the buzz.

It was apparent that the South African cricket board considered hosting the World Twenty20 a privilege, and it granted the tournament the profile it deserved. The ECB's approach, it is easy to sense, has been marked by ambivalence. It's partly understandable. Commercially, the Ashes is the big ticket of the summer, and is at the heart of the ECB's marketing campaign. Would it really have been a distraction, though, to give a bit more attention to the World Twenty20? As I walking up to The Oval before the semi-final today, it was hard to detect the presence of a global sports tournament. Why host such a massive event and be coy about it?

As I walked up to The Oval before the semi-final today, it was hard to detect the presence of a global sports tournament. Why host such a massive event and be coy about it?

In many ways, the tournament has been a triumph of England's multiculturalism. Indians, Pakistanis, and to a lesser extent Sri Lankans, have filled the grounds to support their teams. By all accounts the atmosphere at the first semi-final at Trent Bridge on Thursday was electric. It is hard to imagine such a scene for a neutral match in any other part of the world, and it lends further credence to the belief that the Pakistanis will feel utterly at home for their "home" series against Australia in England next year. After all, when the match got over, all the Pakistani supporters merely went home.

Pakistan's run to the final has been the most stirring story of the tournament so far. And Shahid Afridi's sensational annihilation of South Africa was worth a thousand words by itself. But none of these have been considered worthy of celebration or examination.

I have just finished watching England beat Australia in quite a thrilling semi-final. At the risk of sounding condescending, I ought to say that is impressive how much the women's game has moved on. The throws now come flat and fast, sixes are hit as a matter of course, and why, they aren't even afraid of playing the scoop.

But you know what the real deal is? If England go on to win the Ashes this summer, I can tell my grandchildren that I was there where it all began.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anand on June 24, 2009, 17:20 GMT

    The ultimate downfall of T20 will not come from the fans but from the players.

    As much as the lure of money is from T20, the top players crave success and competition.

    If you train all year for a tournament and you are the best team but still only have a 50% chance of winning which in my opinion is the case in T20, it cannot be a long term motivator.

    The game just isnt long enough to allow for the recovery that makes sport great.

  • Chris on June 23, 2009, 9:06 GMT

    It wasn't a triumph of multiculturalism. It was a way of making money out of multiculturalism! And just because something is called a world championship doesn't mean it's worthy of attention. How many world heavyweight championships in boxing are worthy of the name? Should we all pay attention to the world series in baseball? There was once something called World Series cricket. T20 is a bit of fun sometimes but it can also be rather dull. It is also something of lottery. We enjoy test cricket more because it's a richer game and we enjoy test cricket against the Australians because the history of the series is equally rich. If that makes other countries feel excluded I'm afraid that's just too bad. Call it snobbishness if you like; test cricket is the superior game and although you don't always get a good one, an exciting test match is x20 more exciting than any other form of the game. And if this truth is more reflected in England than elsewhere then I'm very glad of it.

  • Nathan on June 23, 2009, 8:36 GMT

    It's just not cricket and try as I might, I just can't find a reason to care about 20/20. I guess that's makes me a snob by some people's assements ... but really it's just that, to me, the Ashes is a meaningful contest whereas 20/20 is meaningless.

  • Hugo on June 22, 2009, 13:36 GMT

    Not really sure why Samit is having such a moan about the lack of media coverage in the UK press. Cricket always is way down the pecking order, in fact every sport is, when compared to Football. The reason being, that is the general view of the population they would rather read about football even when they aren't even playing it.

    When you consider South Africa, of course they made a huge song and dance about it they only have two real sports in their country Rugby and Cricket. So it makes perfect sense they went mad for it!

    I agree that our national obsession with the Ashes is becoming tiresome and unless Australia rise to their glorious old selves over the next ten years. We'll be riding open top buses and giving out MBEs like smarties (Ian Bell, give it back!) for beating the 3rd best team in the word. Makes me cringe! Still I really want them to win but just not make such a fuss this time around, please!

    Congrates to Pakistan, they were awesome as was Boom Boom - good work

  • Simon on June 22, 2009, 8:15 GMT

    Sambit - I think you've misread this. I actually think there has been surprising enthusiasm for it, I've heard a lot of people with a very passive interest in cricket talking about it - it has genuinely generated interest. Cricket never gets huge coverage in England unless England are doing something exceptional (a rare event!). A few of the posts are the usual drivel about stuffiness etc. - come to a few club abd village games - or into the Hollies stand for a Test Match - there is no stuffiness I can assure you. I played a game in rural Herefordshire at the weekend in which two visiting Asian players were taken part. They were cheered on ceaselessly by their teamates and had a great time. Pakistan winning is wonderful and I love the flair and intelligence the sub-continental batsmen bring to the game - it would be far pooer without them. So please don't tar us all with this old world rubbish - we have moved on - so should you.

  • Ravi Kumar on June 22, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    Sambit Bal makes no reference to India or the IPL or Lalit Modi in this piece - and yet, it is weird that there are so many comments targeted at those three. If you take off those IPL-India-Modi tinted glasses, you will realise that there is truth in the article. Considering how intensely the ECB lobbied the ICC to keep Zimbabwe out of this event so as to be able to host it, it would indeed be strange that they failed to market it effectively. And that is the underlying point of this article. Of course, considering how inward looking the ECB and English cricket, and their obsession over the Ashes, it is hardly a surprise, but that they chose to pass up a chance to effectively sell a gathering of the best talents in cricket makes one wonder if they know what they are doing - as their dalliances in the past with a man facing a possible 250-year prison sentence show.

  • Steve on June 21, 2009, 14:46 GMT

    Why does it have to be 'snobbery' when a nation prefers the prospect of an Ashes series over the World Twenty20? I dare say the author may have seen it differently if he had been English or Australian.

    I've enjoyed World Twenty20 just fine. I think it has been everything that the IPL wasn't - long enough without dragging on, commercial enough without being sickening, and flashy enough without the idiocy. But the Ashes always have been and always will be what I look forward to most of all.

  • Amit on June 21, 2009, 9:00 GMT

    I think most of the people who have commented, read just the title and started off with the indignant response with the basic premise falling into; a) 20-20 is not real cricket; b) there are so many other sports we can watch. Both these arguments are matters of personal choice (I would take a well turned out bollywood number over a Wagoner Opera any day for example, but it is a personal choice). However, Sambit is finding fault with the marketing (or the lack of it) for the World Cup by ECB. Usually, English are second to none when it comes to self-promotion and marketing. (Case in point being Stonehenge. I shudder to imagine what they might have done if they had the pyramids by any chance). However, in this case, their is a distinct second rate treatment of this competition. If they feel that 20-20 is not 'real cricket' as well, they shouldn't have bothered trying to host it and let someone who cares about it a little more organise it.

  • jack on June 21, 2009, 8:22 GMT

    Come on folks!

    Don't waste your time by watching test cricket...

    concentrate on your own professional career rather watching this bull shit game where players play for money than pride..

    The fact is that by playing IPL players earn 10 times more than playing 10 test matches. Can u believe this...

    then why the heck players will play test cricket

    they will play 20-20 earn quick money, retire soon,, enjoy family life, save money for next 10 generations of their family...

    I personally advice youth who have not yet settled in their life to concentrate on their profession rather than wasting time in watching cricket which has purely become a money tank now...

  • Faraz on June 20, 2009, 23:28 GMT

    Hi, Surely this T20 is the most agricultural form ever, very "gimmicky" and its even difficult to call it "CRICKET". Isn't Test Cricket the "real" stuff? Cricket stands apart from rest of the sports and need not follow other sports where theres a need for world cups. A true Cricket "world champion" is that wins at home and abroad(TEST MATCHES) over a period of time. A world champion can't be determined in a span of just 20 days, I would bet on 1460 days of Test Cricket(4 yrs) to determine a "World Champion" English public are rightfully aware of this, to be fresh for the "real" stuff and keep away from the "gimmicky" stuff

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