Absence of malice

Thanks to Twenty20, Shane Warne has been accepted as one of their own by the Indian public.-R. V. MOORTHY

T20 is enhancing the brotherhood of man. Apparently Warne has been carousing with Graeme Smith, once a bitter enemy. Various Pakistani players are enjoying the company of Indian comrades. Sourav Ganguly and several antipodeans have become better acquainted, writes Peter Roebuck.

Far from heralding the collapse of batting technique, the slaughter of bowlers, the fall of man and the end of civilisation (whose arrival, as a matter of fact, is eagerly awaited) T20 continues to give players and supporters a chance to show themselves in a more sympathetic light.

Admittedly these hectic engagements encourage wild eyed frenzy but they are also full of laughter and camaraderie. Cricket is in sore need of both attributes. Those standing up for IPL, a group more likely to include gregarious contemporaries than grim-faced sages, can point towards two crucial characteristics, one inspiring and the other reassuring.

Beyond argument IPL will reduce the nationalism and narrowness that has threatened to turn the game into a political football. Before the tournament began critics complained about a lack passion owing to a want of identity. The teams were mere hotch-potches, they argued, and the contests were meaningless. Players were signed from all over the place, and locals were few and far between.

But the contrary case is more convincing. Already sport has quite enough prejudices, some of them jocular, some of them deeply rooted. Now Delhi-ites can support their Daredevils without rejecting their opponents on some spurious historic, geographic or ethnic ground.

Virender Sehwag’s men have been pitting themselves against equally convivial teams and the matches have been played without any hint of malice. Although the contests have been hard fought, the promise made by the captains at the opening ceremony has been kept. Previously Harbhajan’s hot temper could be hidden in a crowd. Now it stands isolated and exposed.

Partisanship has been reduced. Once dismissed as a scoundrel, Shane Warne’s performances for Rajasthan have convinced an entire State that he is actually a loveable rogue. Before long all India will realise that he has mighty powers to put alongside his documented failings. Not so long ago Andrew Symonds might as well have grown horns. Now locals can appreciate his stunning fielding and ball striking.

Accordingly T20 is enhancing the brotherhood of man. Apparently Warne has been carousing with Graeme Smith, once a bitter enemy. Various Pakistani players are enjoying the company of Indian comrades. Sourav Ganguly and several antipodeans have become better acquainted. Over the years players of this calibre have occasionally shared a dressing-room but it has never lasted long. T20 will widen experiences and cement relationships.

And it is not true that locals have been ignored. Numerous sons of the soil have been given a priceless opportunity to play alongside the leading lights of the era, and not in an exhibition match but in contests they are determined to win.

This gives them a chance to study the champions’ games and get inside their minds. How many young boys play with Tiger Woods when it matters?

Nor is there any sign that T20 is destroying batting technique. To the contrary, only smart and commanding batsmen can score runs with any regularity. Wickets are important. Senior batsmen must play responsibly or they will stumble and fall.

All the evidence suggests that shot selection is as relevant in T20 as elsewhere. Certainly more risks are taken but, then, the great men have always been able to attack a wider range of deliveries. If anything, mediocrity has been exposed. Brilliant hundreds have been scored by dashers like Brendon McCullum, Michael Hussey and Adam Gilchrist. No mugs have reached three figures.

Altogether it has been an uplifting start and the merchants of doom have thus far been routed.