Australia frustrated by Twenty20 format
Few would argue with Adam Gilchrist’s pre-tournament comment that Andrew Symonds was built for Twenty20 cricket. But even the big-hitting Queenslander admits to being frustrated by the shortest form of the game.
And it’s not simply because he has struggled to sometimes get a hit in Australia’s batting line-up.
The inaugural Twenty20 World Championship has shown just how great a leveller the 20-overs-a-side game can be in world cricket.
Australia were hardly challenged in romping away to their third straight World Cup one-day cricket crown undefeated just five months ago.
Yet they have struggled to assert their dominance at Twenty20 tournament in South Africa, losing even to minnows Zimbabwe in their first game.
True, rustiness has played a part, with the Australians still very underdone after a four-month break.
But the fact even the most mis-matched opponents need only perform for 40 overs – instead of 100 in one-day cricket or more than 400 in a five-day Test match – has brought Australia back to the field at the tournament.
And for a team used to having their superior skill and tactics win out over the longer forms of the game, that can be hard to take.
“It’s a frustrating game because you can be beaten by the lesser sides and they have to be good for a shorter period of time to beat you,” said Symonds.
“At least in one-day cricket you get the chance to work your way back into the game if you get into trouble, the same as in Test cricket over a much longer period.”
This world championship was always going to be a litmus test for the future of Twenty20 cricket at an international level.
In terms of public support, it has been a success. Crowds in South Africa have been healthy throughout.
Players, however, remain torn.
They have embraced the game because of the public interest – not begrudgingly, but it is clear they are by no means in love with it.
“I think the more I play it, I’m probably liking it less as a player, but the more I see of it, the more I love watching it,” said Australian vice-captain Gilchrist.
“I’m being more and more sold on why the public is so taken by this format.
“One over can really change a game and in a tight game it’s really crucial.
“I’m still not totally convinced that over the short term the skills get to come through as much as they do in the longer formats, so that’s evening the game up which is a great spectacle.”
“Hopefully we don’t lose the traditional side, the purer side of the game, I really hope that,” Symonds said.
“But by the same token, I think it will be healthy for the game that cricket does go into the echelons where soccer is going all over the world.”
The relatively smooth running of the tournament itself has also done wonders for the game.
While many believed the International Cricket Council got it horribly wrong in dragging out the World Cup in the Windies for two months, the governing body may have finally got it right with Twenty20.
By Monday’s final, it would have taken a pain-free 14 days to decide the inaugural champion.
Playing on up to three games a day – including double-headers at venues – has proved a success. Far from overkill, it has given fans the rare chance to watch four international teams play on the same day.
Even if the first game is dud, there’s always a second to come – and for the most part matches have in any case been entertaining.
“The World Cup went far too long, we all know that,” Symonds said.
“But I think this has been structured – the time, the two games (a day) – it’s been put very well together in regards to the amount of games and how the pool systems worked.
“And I think that’s why people have enjoyed it as well, they’ve been able to see four teams play in the one day.”
The second Twenty20 World Championship has already been slated for England in 2009.
The ICC, though, have been wary to cap the amount of international Twenty20 games played outside a world championship with a limit of three home matches per year.
“At the moment they’re probably doing it right as far as keeping it to small doses,” said Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, who this week became the first player to take a hat-trick in international Twenty20 cricket against Bangladesh.
“If it’s played too often it loses its novelty value, whereas, if it’s played at the start of a tour it’s something different.
“And having competitions like this are great because it has its own little tournament.”