December 21, 2011

'If you have T20 all the time, it will be damaged'

Alex Malcolm
The former England captain talks about the different leagues he has played in, and how T20 has grown

England's T20 domestic competition is the oldest in the world. What are your thoughts on where it is at and how it has developed since it first began?
When it first came out in England it was a mad kind of craze. It was a new concept, targeting a new audience, and it was a long way away from the traditions of English cricket, with music and noise, and every game was pretty much sold out. I've got to say, since then, there's probably been a little bit of overkill, in terms of how many games we've played during the season. I know they've reduced that back down this season, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. I think they just expected it to continue on in the vein it did when it first came out.

Is that a fear for players worldwide, in terms of your experiences in both India and now in Australia, that administrators are trying to schedule too much of a good thing?
I think you've got to be very careful of what the product is, and what Twenty20 cricket is. It obviously does target a different audience. But that audience can only be bought into so many times before it gets saturated. If you have Twenty20 games on all the time, and think they will be sellouts all the time, then it will be damaged. It doesn't work.

What about your experiences of the different standards of domestic T20 competitions? You've played for Durham in England, Delhi in India, and now in Australia, albeit for a short time so far. Can you make any comparisons?
I think they're all very good standards. I wouldn't say any one was much better than the other. As you say, it's very early here, and totally different conditions. The WACA is probably the fastest, bounciest pitch you will find anywhere in the world. So they all pose different challenges because of the different conditions you come up against. Obviously, India you've got to be a lot better at playing spin, and manipulating the strike, deal with the smaller grounds and the noise. You've got big challenges wherever you play. The English conditions seam around a bit, even on a T20 wicket.

From your experience, having captained your country to a world championship, how have the tactics and the way teams prepare changed from when it first started to now?
Yeah, I think teams are a lot more planned and prepared. I certainly remember when we first started playing T20 cricket, it was seen by the players as a bit of a hit-and-giggle. It was kind of a training session, if you know what I mean. The consequences of getting out were pretty much nil. It was just a case of, go out there, express yourself, and put a show on for the crowd. Now, obviously, a lot more money has come into the game and sponsorship is a lot more lucrative, so, of course, there is a lot more preparation and planning. These days the teams really analyse the opposition a lot more. Teams have got a lot of different tactics on how to combat opposition bowlers, looking at left-hand, right-hand combinations, and there's a lot of thought that goes into it before you get out onto the park. And that's only a good thing. I guess cricket has always been seen as a game that is quite far behind, especially American sports, in terms of scientific analysis. I think it can only be good for the game.

So what place does Twenty20 cricket hold in your own heart, given you are England's only ever T20 World Cup-winning captain? Do people stop you in the street about that or are they more focused on your performances in winning Ashes series?
(Laughs) I think it's an overall, kind of, judgement - more than just one form of the game. I think, certainly from my point of view, Test cricket has always been the ultimate, and I'm hoping the next generation also thinks the same. And that's up to the authorities, the ICC, and all the boards, to try and market Test cricket as best as possible. But I think in terms of the players themselves, if their Test careers pan out well, and they've won Ashes series and so on, then that's what they will be most proud of. That's not putting down Twenty20 or one-day cricket at all. It's just, I think, where you are tested the most with the mental and technical side of cricket. It's a tough one because T20 definitely has a place in cricket, and it has certainly brought a lot more money and a lot more participants into the game, and a bigger audience. But we've also got to realise that Test cricket is the ultimate.

Last question, Paul. How are you feeling about your own form and how the Perth Scorchers are tracking after their first loss to the Hurricanes and ahead of their second match in Melbourne?
I think we did well in three-quarters of the game, and we just had one bad quarter. And it was a shocking quarter, enough to lose the game with. There's still a lot of confidence around the side. We did a lot of good things. We're not going to look into the loss too much. The guys have made some mistakes, but at the same time we did a lot of good things. Of course, on a personal note I'd love to get a few more runs, and obviously pick up a couple of wickets. At the end of the day I'm not over here to field well. I'm here to score runs and take wickets.