October 9, 2011

Kohli and Warner prove T20's got class

The two have shown the format is no longer a hit-and-giggle fest. We can look forward to seeing them face each other in longer versions of the game

This year's Champions League has been by far the best of the three played. It has not only enhanced the reputation of the tournament but also of Twenty20 in general and that of a couple of talented young batsmen. Any game where one player scores a century and another produces a five-wicket haul and they end up on the losing side has to be chock full of cricketing skills and extremely competitive. In the end it's the quality of the contest that decides the future of a game.

The knockout game between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and South Australia had everything you could want in a cricket match, right down to a last-ball six sealing the win.

There have been times when the naysayers have argued the entertainment quotient at a T20 match overshadows the game. That is not an accusation cricket should take lightly, as the dancing girls and DJs will always find another venue to ply their trade, but it is not a criticism that applies to this tournament. In addition to the nailbiting contests, the Champions League has produced some incredible individual performances.

Considering every sport needs a constant influx of youthful talent, the exceptional batting of David Warner and Virat Kohli has been a very pleasing aspect of the Champions League. Both India and Australia need to rebuild following devastating losses to England, and these two stand out as players for the future. The first thing selectors look for in a young cricketer is skill, and then they want to see consistent performances.

The latest back-to-back efforts of Warner and Kohli have been impressive. In scoring consecutive T20 centuries Warner has achieved something that was regarded as nearly impossible. Having built his international reputation as a hard-hitting T20 batsman, he has matured into a highly skilful player who must be given serious consideration for Australian selection in all forms of the game. His balance as a batsman is such that he has been able to adapt his play to all circumstances, and his stroke range is mostly traditional and now becoming more selective. In addition, his fielding is outstanding, and at a time when Australia are crying out for young batsmen who are not a liability in the field, Warner's credentials are tempting.

Kohli has a lot in common with Warner. He has made his reputation in the shorter forms of the game and has an enticing stroke range. The fact that he took the Royal Challengers into the final after falling just short of being the finisher in his previous knock is a sign of his maturity.

Like Australia, India need talented young batsmen who can field. Kohli fits that description perfectly and he's making all the right moves to impress knowledgeable selectors. It would be no surprise to see this pair meet up as opponents again in the near future, only this time while representing their respective countries and in a longer form of the game. If players like Warner and Kohli can make the jump from short-form players to genuine international cricketers, it will do even more to enhance the reputation of T20 as a bonafide game rather than just excellent entertainment.

T20 is evolving quickly and some of the innovations seen in the batting, bowling and fielding make for exciting cricket. What is patently clear when you witness a number of exciting contests like we've seen in the Champions League is that the game has progressed to the point where it no longer needs gimmicks to attract supporters. The duty of the officials now is to ensure that T20's reputation as credible cricket is enhanced rather than diminished. It has become obvious that played well, T20 is an exciting game of cricket, rather than just another way to enjoy a night on the town.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist