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12 July 1996
Aussies launch new version of cricket
By Our Correspondent
It was Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer who first gave us what is rather snidely referred to as `pajama cricket` - a phrase that encompasses coloured clothes, day-night games and all the rest of the razzmatazz that packs in the paying spectators in a way the traditional version of the game is failing to, these days.
Those innovations came as a form of rebellion against the official cricket body. And that is ironic - for now, it is the Australian Cricket Board itself that is due to launch, on Friday July 12, an innovative version of the game that is part of its campaign to establish cricket as a major sport in Asia.
The eight-a-side game, being played for the first time in Kuala Lumpur as the Super Eights tournament starting Friday, will feature some of the top players in the game, from the leading cricketing nations.
The thrust of this version of the game, like the six a side version that has been played annually in Hong Kong for some four years now, is speed. Each match will last two hours, each side comprising eight players will face a maximum of 14 overs, and the onus is definitely on the batsmen to rattle up the runs at the fastest possible pace.
Interesting variations on the basic rules include these:
1) Shots that clear the boundary rate eight runs, as opposed to the standard six. 2) Each player in the bowling side, with the exception of the wicketkeeper, must bowl at least one over. 3) A batsman must retire if he scores 50 runs, but he can bat again if the other players in his side have been dismissed.
The ACB thinking is on keeping the fundamental nature of the game intact, while emphasising on "fast, furious action and fun" according to ACB marketing head David Fouvy. ``We are looking to expand further, and we are evaluating other Asian cities to host future tournaments.``
The ACB evidently feels that Test cricket does not have the marketability required to grab new audiences in the Asian market. Rather, the thinking goes, a bat on ball, hell for leather version of the game in which the results are known in the time it takes to watch an action thriller in a movie house will have more appeal.
Matinee cricket, in fact, is a good name to give this truncated version - for with a maximum running time of two hours and the kind of action seen in a Jackie Chan or Sylverster Stallone film, the new version of the game resembles nothing more than one of those mindless extravaganzas Hollywood churns out with such regularity.
The basic idea appears to be to wean spectators back from games such as baseball and basketball, which feature fast action in a limited time. "By introducing a fast, participant version of the game, cricket is looking at the grassroots, at strengthening the sport at the international level," says ACB chairman Graham Halbish.
"The concept is totally new, and therefore exciting," says Aussie skipper Mark Taylor. "Some blokes will try to belt the ball over the fence every ball they face, but if you can averate between two and three runs per ball, you should be pretty successful."
Fouvy said the ACB has invested heavily in staging and promoting this weekend`s tournament in Malaysia.
The tournament will feature two Australian sides, one Malaysian Invitational side led by former Australian skipper Allan Border and featuring Sri Lankan stars Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda D`Silva, and teams from India, New Zealand and South Africa.
The games will be screened on pay television channels in Australia and Asia.
Source :: Rediff On The NeT (https://www.redifindia.com)