Excitement assured

FORMER INDIAN WICKET-KEEPER SAMEER DIGHE, who led the Air-India team to victory in the Twenty20 tournament in Los Angeles, recently, feels that the format gives a lot of options to a captain in marshalling his resources.-V.V.KRISHNAN

It is alright for the spectators to watch three hours of cricket, but the impact it will have on the TEENAGERS has to be weighed in the Indian context.

Whatever one might say about the popularity of cricket in India, it is football which is the most popular game in the country and also in the world if one goes by the numbers. Football organisers are not worried about their financially successful format, but those who promote cricket had to change the format to bring more money into the game.

Cricket's popularity in countries other than India is going down and to stop the decline, cricket promoters have decided to encourage the Twenty20 format, which is definitely not appreciated by the connoisseurs of the game. The success of the Twenty20 format is directly linked with the revenue it generates. And to promoters, that is the most important thing.

The BCCI initially objected to the Twenty20 format, but the pressure from the ICC was too unrelenting for them to keep up their protest. One can understand the concern of the BCCI as Twenty20 cricket is unfortunately looked at as short and sweet entertainment for the spectators.

It is alright for the spectators to watch three hours of cricket, but the impact it will have on the teenagers has to be weighed in the Indian context. Unlike other countries, in India kids as young as eight start playing with cricket balls. There are Under-13 inter-State tournaments, and if the organisers push the Twenty20 format without any approval from the State body, the kids will have problems learning the basics.

Former India wicketkeeper Sameer Dighe who led the Air-India team to victory in the Twenty20 tournament in Los Angeles, recently, says that this format makes every player think. It's a 120 balls game and a score of 160 is a winning score, but Dighe feels that the format gives a lot of options to a captain in marshalling his resources.

In a 50-overs format, a fielding team tries to block the boundaries in the middle overs and the batting side is unwilling to attack in those overs. But the rules in the Twenty20 format are such that an option of flexibility makes a captain change the batting order to achieve optimum utilisation.

A team which remains alert and uses its strengths while implementing its plan is most likely to triumph, as Air-India proved in winning a Twenty20 event for the second time. It had won the MRF Twenty20 tournament last season in Bangalore.

Dighe says that there may be players who will specialise in the Twenty20 format, thereby creating one more category of sub-shorter version after the longer and the shorter versions.

This format will encourage the all-rounders who are good at bowling yorkers, swift movers in the field with young legs and a lovely arm from the deep. It will be a superb spectacle to see the game played with speed. The skill and thinking part is not ignored when one watches minutely. But would it be proper to accept it for all the age groups is what the technical committee of the BCCI should decide.

There are no limited overs inter-State one-day matches for the Under-17 age groups in India. Similarly, no Under-17 should be allowed to play in the Twenty20 formats. For that age group, getting the basics right is of paramount importance. Letting them get into the Twenty20 format would cause problems for coaches teaching them the basics.

There is a school of thought which feels that to succeed in the Twenty20 format you need to have skill. Those who attack without skill perish quickly. It's the art of winning in the Twenty20 format that will be on view during the ensuing season. No matter what one may say, there is a big danger to the 50-over format.

Unless the ICC changes the rules, the Twenty20 format will overshadow the 50-over format. The Super Sub was a failure and power play is not as exciting as one thought it would be. The Twenty20 format, too, may have some grey areas, but with more teams working on strategy management, cricketing excitement is assured.

The worry is that, with the popularity of the format, it is likely to get more commercialised and this may affect the longer version of the game. With the advent of the 50-over format, Test cricket suffered in the sub-continent. Now with the Twenty20 format, even 50 overs will suffer.

Is the game changing or are the organisers changing the game? Only a debate can decide this issue. At the moment everyone is excited with the Twenty20 format. So let's watch and enjoy.