Engrossing fare on the cards

The Twenty20 format has already taken off in a big way in South Africa, with the domestic Pro20 competitions attracting record crowds.

ICC and Cricket South Africa spelt out their objectives for September’s Twenty20 World Championships, at the launch ceremony in Johannesburg recently. The focus would be on entertainment and efforts would be made to bring in more people into the game.

“It is the format for the future, and should bring more people to the stadiums. We are looking at families coming together, and are hoping that people who don’t usually watch the game are attracted towards this format,” said ICC President Ray Mali.

The format has already taken off in a big way in South Africa, with the domestic Pro20 competitions attracting record crowds.

“Twenty20 has made me more impatient,” joked South Africa captain Graeme Smith, although he did admit that the format should help cricket keep up with other forms of entertainment.

Ticket sales are reported to be overwhelming so far, especially for the semifinals and the final. “Expectations from this event are ever increasing and the public are responding. The launch was fantastic and if this is what we are to expect for the duration of the tournament, then everybody who experiences a match, on TV, or at the stadium will be truly entertained,” said Tournament Director Steve Elworthy.

With the 2003 ICC World Cup (which was hosted by South Africa) voted the best ever, organisers hope to take a lot from that for this event. “We are also working closely with the 2010 FIFA World Cup committee,” said Mali.

Expectations are high that youngsters attracted to this format would also make the transition towards watching Tests and ODIs, thereby further increasing cricket’s popularity. “Twenty20 (further shortened as T20) has helped the game move with modern times and it has made every format of the game more exciting. It has certainly broken moulds in our own thinking and it’s special to be part of something that will bring new people to the game,” said Smith.

Nandita Sridhar * * * VIRTUAL REALITY

V. GANESAN

Cricket Australia is experimenting with the virtual reality technology for its batsmen to maintain the team’s number one position in the world.

The technology helps the players, padded up and waiting to bat, to rehearse their innings using images gathered from the middle, and projected, life-size, back into the pavilion.

If the system works, it will mean that a player like Mike Hussey can go out to face Muttiah Muralitharan having already got his eye in against him in real time, with the ability to replay deliveries he found difficult.

“A batsman could pick up the cues in Murali’s bowling action on that particular day so they know when it’s coming,” said Marc Portus (above), manager of the sports science unit at Cricket Australia’s Ce ntre of Excellence, which marked its 20th anniversary.

“We’re not quite at that stage yet, but it’s where we’re aiming to go — possibly as early as next summer,” he was quoted as saying by the ‘Australian Associated Press’.

“We’ve done it with footage in a training environment and simulated game scenarios, but we’d really love to start doing it in matches. You can’t beat the real thing.”

However, the virtual batting studio is unlikely to be functional in time for Australia’s two Tests with Sri Lanka this summer, in which Murali requires nine wickets to beat Shane Warne’s world record of 708 Test victims.