Letter from a Punjabi kurri in Dilli | The Chak De effect
Ahh, Twenty20! After sitting through those innings of slam-bam cricket where runs are made and wickets fall before you can spell C-R-I-C-K-E-T, did you not feel that the conventional 50-over One-Day International (ODI) game will seem like a saas-bahu serial, which moves at a snail’s pace after someone is made to die (till he/she is resurrected after 20 years)?
Did the thought not cross your mind how will you sit through such a ‘lonnnnnnnng’ game? Were you not forced to compare a 50-over ODI game with a five-day Test match? Most people – who were tormented by my company – during the Twenty20 World Cup felt this way and quite rightly so. The ongoing ODI series between India and Australia cemented that belief (or rather make-belief).
Cricket freaks seem to be showing withdrawal symptoms now, just after two India-Australia matches. ODI cricket seems to run the risk of losing its fizz to Twenty20, which is power-packed, fast and less time-consuming.
When juxtaposed against this format, the ODIs seem to be heading towards an identity crisis. My mother, for example, is a not a very great cricket freak, but she sat through each game involving India during the Twenty20 World Cup and quite patiently too. Now ask her to watch an India vs Australia ODI, and she will prefer to cook her saag.
An English newspaper quoted an ardent cricket fan as saying, “It is like a junkie who has tasted cocaine, being offered marijuana. During the India-Australia ODIs, I felt I was watching Twenty20 in slow motion. I know they are different versions of the game, but I cannot help looking for Twenty20 in the ODI format.” He has hit the bull’s eye.
The way the ODIs are ambling towards their inevitable end, it feels excruciating to sit thorugh the game from the start to finish. Watching the game till the end has become a dull formality. On the other hand, none of the Twenty20 games was predictable.
Never a dull moment, anything could happen any time. The crest and trough of the ODI now feels like unnecessary foreplay, which only delays the climax. The ODI formats, actually, are to blame. They follow a predictable pattern – begin with boundaries, totter in the middle and slog towards the end.
People have started talking about ODI cricket the way they used to complain about Test cricket. “How can you spend eight hours watching an ODI?” This reminds me of the days when I would say, “How can you follow a game for five days?” Another interesting quote a colleague made during the India-Australia match at Bangalore early this week was, “Just the first 20 overs of the game were played well.” We see or hear what we want to, is there a better example to verify that?
However, the purists may still swear by the five-day format in white flannels and the less-orthodox will eulogise the ODI, which strikes the perfect balance between adrenaline-rush and time available to strategise the game. Twenty20, however, is like Pamela Anderson, who you can hate but cannot ignore or even deny that she invites attention, for reasons varying from eye to eye.