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'A stupendous festival of cricket'

A newspaper round-up following the World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa

Will Luke
Will Luke

Hundreds of Indian fans cram round a big TV screen to watch them take the World Twenty20 title yesterday © Getty Images
The inaugural World Twenty20 tournament has been exhilarating viewing. But opinions from players and commentators remain divided; split between those who are convinced the format is the natural heir to 50-over's ageing throne, and some who remain wary of Twenty20's long-term impact.
Gideon Haigh, the Australian author and cricket columnist, is one. Australia haven't embraced cricket's frolicking fest with as much fervour as we might have expected but there is no early-exit bitterness from Haigh. His concern is for the future.
"Through time, however, it is likely that the main beneficiaries will be commercial intermediaries," Haigh wrote in yesterday's Australian. "Cricket will make a great deal of money in the short term, money it has no obvious need for and will mostly waste, and it will be left a coarser, crueller, crasser game as a result. Now that the Twenty20 world championship is over, another proverb comes to mind: be careful what you wish for."
But even critics of the shortened format can't deny that this particular tournament was, administratively, far greater a success than the World Cup in the Caribbean. Jonathan Agnew, BBC's cricket correspondent, chose yesterday as the perfect opportunity to highlight the World Cup's failings and World Twenty20's successes.
"This is how a one-day cricket tournament should be," he said. "People are actually welcomed into the grounds here, you're not strip searched by men with rubber gloves, you can take in whatever you can take in a flag of whatever size you can take a bottle of water in.
"They've treated people with a bit of respect, a bit of dignity and they're not ripping them off. They've charged them little to get in - two or three pounds will usually get you into a game - and what a surprise, the grounds are full and there's a tremendous atmosphere.
"I hope this has been a lesson learned by the ICC that one-day cricket tournaments are fantastic, they're colourful, they're vibrant, they're everything they should be," he concluded. "But unfortunately, the last two World Cups that the ICC have staged haven't been."
Simon Briggs, in The Daily Telegraph, was even moved to question whether the tournament was "the most successful tournament in cricket history", while insisting it "certainly...produced the best final we have seen". A bold claim, but this format is sweeping everyone off their feet whether they like it or not, inducing superlatives left, right and centre.

Agnew: 'I hope this has been a lesson learned by the ICC that one-day cricket tournaments are fantastic, they're colourful, they're vibrant, they're everything they should be' © Getty Images
"The match was a compressed epic," Briggs gushed. "Like the famous World Cup semi-final of 1999, it proved that limited-overs cricket can be just as compelling as the full-scale game. When the pressure mounts, the players' temperaments are laid bare. And while the technique of smearing a six over midwicket may bear little resemblance to that employed in a classic cover drive, the skills involved are every bit as demanding."
Mike Haysman, the South African commentator, was so enthralled that he sees no future for the 50-over dinosaur. "The ICC can no longer ignore the popularity of the shortest form and needs to accommodate the wishes of their fanatical paying public," he wrote at the Supercricket website. "This injection is exactly what the game needs to rejuvenate the sport and whilst Test cricket needs to be protected and preserved, the relatively sluggish 50 over game can step aside and allow the new pretender centre stage."
Fazeer Mohammed, writing in the Trinidad and Tobago Express, agrees with Haysman too. "The competition has been packaged as any fast food should be: attractively presented for rapid consumption and instant gratification with no pretensions towards the proper nutrition that is needed to sustain the long-term health of the traditional form of the game."
The praise doesn't stop there. Over in The Independent. Stephen Brenkley described the event as a "a stupendous festival of cricket" while adding that "there will be those who still insist that this is not really cricket, that it is wham bam stuff for a modern generation. Let them go on thinking so." It was, he concluded, "something truly special".
But 50-over cricket isn't yet dead. And Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, brought the Twenty20's gushing praise to an abrupt halt today when he reminded everyone that "50-over cricket is the financial driver of the game."
But for how long, Malcolm?

Will Luke is a staff writer on Cricinfo