The Heavy Ball

The struggle to save Twenty20

The terrible threat to the shortest form of the game. And why merit is thankfully being sidelined as a criterion for qualification

Dale Steyn is pumped up after trapping Kevin Pietersen lbw, South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Cape Town, January 6, 2010

Test cricket: making rapacious, inconsiderate inroads into Twenty20's territory  •  Getty Images

In the wake of some minor rumblings over the dilemma of whether to pick picking Friedel de Wet over Makhaya Ntini in the ongoing South Africa-England series, comes a new controversy that threatens to rock international cricket. While some observers wondered if Ntini was being kept in the team for reasons other than cricket, suggesting that South Africa still had racial issues in team selection, others have protested that de Wet's selection is a clear case of "discrimination based on merit".
"You can't pick a cricketer over another merely because he's a better player. That's discrimination pure and simple - you are saying one cricketer bats or bowls better than the other, and so he should get preference. Absurd. These 'merit' quotas must go," bellowed a spokesman for the Society of Unskilled Cricketers, Kent. "If cricketing skill is the only criterion, then what happens to the prospects of young cricketers who have worked hard to have been born into a particular race, or in a specific geographic region, or speak a specific language? All their efforts will come to naught, simply because another player is picked over them just because he consistently did well in domestic cricket. We won't allow this," he said vehemently.
However, South Africa's chairman of selectors, Mike Procter, strongly denied the allegations. "Friedel de Wet has been picked purely for valid, non-cricketing reasons. All allegations that his undoubted merit and cricketing ability have anything to do with his selection are vindictive and baseless." Procter also clarified that South Africa has a long and proud tradition of not being swayed by merit. "How else would you explain the careers of Boeta Dipenaar, Neil McKenzie and Gerhardus Liebenberg? If we were discriminating based on skills, these guys would never had played for South Africa," he pointed out cleverly.
Where there's controversy, can the BCCI be far behind? Reacting to similar allegations regarding the quota system in Indian cricket, chairman of selectors Krish Srikkanth said, "Since it is so controversial, we've decided to do away with merit as a selection criterion altogether. Until now, I have to honestly admit that there were always about four or five slots in the playing XI reserved for players of high cricketing ability, but in the interests of other, less skilled players, this system will be abandoned with immediate effect," he said, whistling loudly for added affect. Srikkanth confirmed that in the future the Indian cricket team will be picked solely on criteria such as the state a player represents, his food preferences, and his ability to mimic the yodelling of Kishore Kumar.
Srikkanth confirmed that in the future the Indian cricket team will be picked solely on criteria such as the state a player represents, his food preferences, and his ability to mimic the yodelling of Kishore Kumar
As the ongoing England-South Africa and Australia-Pakistan series have produced some exciting Test cricket, and the recent spate of limited-overs cricket matches have been rather dull and insipid, the ICC has called an emergency meeting to save Twenty20 cricket.
"The ICC is totally committed to preserving all forms of the game. Twenty20 is currently under threat from Test cricket, and we need to find ways to save it," said ICC chief executive David Morgan. "While people keep harping on how Test cricket is the players' favourite format, it's equally true that Twenty20 is the administration's favourite format. You ask any cricket administrator in the world, he'll tell you that Twenty20 is the form of the game that he most loves to… er… administrate," he said, his chest bursting with pride, and his eyes welling up with melting dollar signs.
Test cricket loyalists are looking on with amusement as the suggestions to save Twenty20 fly fast and furious. Among the ideas that have been put forth so far are: making Twenty20 pitches less batsman-friendly, switching to white clothing and red balls, and playing Twenty20 matches over three full days - clearly demonstrating the ICC's ability to emphasise the "tank" in "think tank".
In other news, rumour has it that the 2011 Word Cup will probably have to be postponed, since Jonathan Trott is unlikely to be ready in time.

Anand Ramachandran is a writer and humourist based in Mumbai. He blogs at
Any or all quotes and facts in this article may be wholly or partly fiction (but you knew that already, didn't you?)