Yesterday(20/10/2007), 20/20 World Champions India won the solitary 20/20 match against one day World Champions Australia which prompted Skipper M.S.Dhoni to declare with an air of conviction, “This proves that the World Cup victory was no fluke”. Considering that India did practically everything right and dominated throughout the match and that too against Australia, one cannot but agree with the captain.
The world cup and this victory should pave the way for a 20/20 revolution in India. Even before the world cup victory, Indian Media baron Subhash Chandra of Zee Telefilms knew what he was doing when, while introducing his India cricket league, he was focusing only on the 20/20 format. He had probably foreseen the potential and the popularity of these kind of matches which were earlier played only in South Africa and England. Even in a typical one day match, the real fireworks begin only in the last one- one and a half hours in most matches. Why not focus only on that? Management is more about leveraging which implies getting more for less and it is high time that the cricketing authorities woke up to popular demand. In a market economy, that is the ultimate arbiter. It is a good thing that the BCCI has announced the Indian premier league and I hope that it proves a death knell for test matches.
Frankly, after watching the 20/20 world cup, the one day matches appeared to be more like Test matches which test the spectator’s patience more than anything else. The first one day international between India and Australia was washed out after the first innings got over. Had it been a 20/20 match, both the innings could have got over and the spectators could have got their money and time’s worth in the first three and a half hours itself. Even from the vagaries of nature point of view, it is better.
One strange complaint often repeated about cricket that it brings the whole country to a standstill and people don’t work which is also shown in the recent, wonderful movie on cricket, “Iqbal”. If a 20-20 match beings at 6 pm, it can still finish around 10 pm and resolve any such complaints. It would then be like watching a movie which would prove to be a very good alternative form of entertainment apart from taking care of work-life balance.
Much before India started playing 20/20 in the world cup, I had suggested in another forum in an article on “Lateral thinking in cricket” that since one-day cricket was far more popular( which is why the current Australia-India test series has no test), there could be a best of five or best of three one day matches at each playing centre instead of test matches. Now I feel that only 20/20 should reign. It may seem now but one can even have two matches in one day which would be so much better than boring test matches which tend to put people off to sleep. It is quality and not quantity that matters.
Though cricketers are of the view that Test match is the real cricket, the contest between the bat and the ball, the contest of both mind and body, I have always believed that one day cricket is another type of test. In test cricket, stamina and endurance are tested but here temperament, quick thinking and pure stroke play is tested, which, like alacrity in fielding, may not be every cricketer’s cup of tea. In one interview, Dhoni admitted that 20/20 drains both the mind and the body because of its intensity. It is like an exam where one has to finish the paper within a given timeframe and therefore cricketers have to be on their toes all the time.
Only genuinely good cricketers can do well in both forms of the game- Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have scored 34 and 37 centuries respectively in Test cricket but in one day cricket, Gavaskar has only one century against Tendulkar’s 40 centuries. The difference in class is obvious. Even considering the fact that Gavaskar played only 108 one day matches, considering his stature, he should have scored at least 10 in one dayers. That apart, since he is an opening batsman, there is no excuse for not performing well in the one dayers which to my mind is equally real cricket on different parameters and considering the fact that the world cup is played in one dayers and now 20/20. What is real can change with the times and preferences of people..
Since I grew up on Gavaskar, I was a great fan of his but in the context of instant cricket, one can only say that while one can appreciate his phenomenal powers of concentration or the Wall Rarhul Dravid’s longevity on the wicket, would one want to spend one’s time and money to see all that? Tennis star Martina Navratilova had once said in the context of concentrating “ I just concentrate on concentrating” and that is what happens in a test match which is more like an art movie and one has to have good concentration to appreciate Gavaskar’s concentration. On the other hand, in a 20/20 match, concentration is spontaneous and is there straight from the word go when one is assured of Dhoni or Yuvraj’s blitzkrieg by one cricketer or another While comparing, former captain Kapil Dev correctly pointed out “Who would want to see a one day match when one can get more from three and a half hours than what one gets in eight?”.
I would extend the same philosophy to test matches which are no match for 20/20 where return on time and money is concerned. I read in an article that one of the persons instrumental in starting test cricket was a man of wealth who did not have to work for a living. No wonder they are so long. Contrast that with today’s world where even a genuine connoisseur of the game cannot sit through the whole test match unless he is retired. Consider the opportunity cost. If there is even a best of three 20/20 matches at each centre, it will not only ensure more cash collections for the BCCI, but ensure adequate return on time and money for the spectators. If it rains, the rest days in between can be utilized to fill up the gap rather than watching boring test matches being washed out which can be even more irritating. Considering their disadvantages, they are bound to die a natural death anyway.
I read somewhere that since around 60 countries play hockey and around 160 play chess(recently Vishwanathan Anand also became world champion), as only 20 countries play cricket, being world champions in cricket is not that great an achievement. While I do not entirely agree with that, I do feel that the 20/20 format because of the time element and excitement is more suited to getting other countries interested in cricket and who knows, in the era of globalization, cricket may prove to be a prime example. Who better to promote all that than India, current champions and a nation where cricket is passionately followed. Even from an international perspective, it is better.
One can always have one test match instead of three to satisfy the puritans just the way there is a critics award and a popular award. As for job satisfaction of the cricketers, 20/20 could be made tougher to make it commensurate with a test match. Some cricketers even say that if one has a good technique, one can do well in any form of the game. If true, they should not crib about 20/20. The most ridiculous argument that I have heard against 20/20 is that sixes will lose their novelty if they are hit so frequently. I don’t think that “familiarity breeds contempt” applies here’ Yuvraj hitting six sixes in an over is a case in point. Sixes have improved in degree(they are really huge now) and frequency and one can never have enough of them. The cricketers can be encouraged to play with technique and could be given special recognition so that both them and the “cricket buffs” among the spectators are satisfied. It could be a win-win situation for all.
Another criticism leveled against 20/20 is that it is too much against tradition; it is too unorthodox. In my view, that is what makes it appealing and successful and coincidentally happens to be the reason behind Reliance’s phenomenal corporate success- ‘Being unconventional is the biggest convention in Reliance.'(For those interested in details, my published article- Thinking out of the box). It would not be out of place to mention here that there used to be a Bollywood movie in the late seventies called “Khubsoorat” which had actress Rekha singing a song “Saare Niyam tod do(Break all the rules), Niyam pe Chalna Chod do( Forget convention)”. That is what 20/20 represents and that is what makes it new and appealing(lkhubsoorat)
There are some people who will argue just for the sake of argument but the fact remains that continuing to play more tests when the same time could be used for 20/20 is a huge opportunity cost and opportunity lost especially when we are proving to be so good at it. Test matches should played the way art films are made- more an exception than the rule. Now, it seems that the one day matches strike the right balance.
Former England Captain Nasir Hussain had said before we won the world cup “Cricket being so popular in India, with millions playing gully cricket, India is bound to do well in 20/20 ”. Every person plays to his strengths. So should every nation, especially one in which Cricket is deemed a religion and which has a spiritual legacy. Spirituality implies impermanence and non-attachment which now needs to be practiced with Test cricket. Not doing so would be like shooting oneself in the foot or in cricketing parlance, getting out hit wicket, a situation which does not augur well for Wold Champions. Arriving can prove tougher than striving and we should try and sustain our success instead of it being a one time “flash in the pan” affair. We ned to focus where we excel and towards test matches, we must adopt the attitude of “chuck(leave)de, India”