Balancing Tests and Twenty20
THE FIRST EVER International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World Twenty20 tournament in South Africa was a resounding success, producing exciting cricket, widespread interest, and satisfying turnouts.
While the traditionalists feel this extra short form of the game is nothing more than an imitation of the sport, the evidence supports that this latest fast food version of cricket is here to stay.
The 27 matches played over two weeks in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, were watched by enthusiatic crowds in full stadiums and by millions around the world on television.
The tournament was something of a journey into the unknown for all concerned, given the newness of the Twenty20 format, but the ICC can boast without a shadow of a doubt that it was a huge success.
It is clear that Twenty20 has an added advantage over the traditional forms of the game in its shorter hours – a match is over in 180 minutes and there is non-stop entertainment. This appeals to those who will go nowhere near a Test match and might only occasionally attend a 50-overs-a-side match.
This newer version of the game also has the best potential to attract television viewers from the lucrative North American market. In fact, this tournament was given significant airplay by major television networks there, with sportscasters inevitably comparing it to baseball.
Indeed, Twenty20 cricket, filled with excitement from beginning to end, was tailor-made for television, and it is a pity that Bajans were not able to see a ball of the live action.
However, as the Twenty20 format prepares to take off even further, it is still vital that officials here also ensure the traditional forms of the game are not neglected. In this regard, we applaud the ICC for limiting the number of Twenty20 Internationals that can be played in any year, thereby ensuring that Test cricket, in particular, is not put on the back-burner.
That apart, what lessons can we in Barbados and the region learn from the success of the inaugural World Twenty20?
First of all, it is important the mistakes of the Kerry Packer episode in the 1970s are not repeated. When the Australian magnate revolutionised the game with his World Series Cricket three decades ago, his efforts were initially frowned on in certain quarters. But from that episode the West Indies rose to supremacy to dominate world cricket for more than a decade.
Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford also raised eyebrows when he launched his own 20/20 competition in Antigua two years ago, particularly in view of the size of the purses he offered. Such lucrative rewards were unheard of in the Caribbean before. Sir Allen obviously had a vision of what was possible, and the success of the recent inaugural ICC tournament shows he was on the ball.
With Sir Allen and the West Indies Cricket Board set to sign an agreement that puts the next five 20/20 tournaments on the West Indies’ annual calendar, we are moving in the right direction.
At the domestic level, the ball is in our court to push the Twenty20 form of the game. The second Stanford 20/20 tournament is set to start in January and, while we are aware of the Barbados Cricket Association’s (BCA) training programme to help prepare the national team, it is incumbent on the local governing body to take that build-up a stage further.
A local Twenty20 competition is mandatory if we are to ensure that the Barbados team is adequately prepared for the Stanford tournament and to prevent a repeat of 2005 when our boys disappointingly bowed out at the quarter-finals and missed out on the US$1 million top prize.
A local tournament would not only provide the means of getting the Barbados team ready but could also satisfy a demand for more night cricket here.