T20 has its charm

Yuvraj Singh inspects the pitch as chief Curator Daljeet Singh looks on at the PCA stadium in Mohali. In T20, captains must assess every pitch and adapt accordingly.-AKHILESH KUMAR

It is possible to appreciate a wide range of music, from the classical to the contemporary. And the same applies in cricket. Only snobs suggest otherwise, and they were born with lemons in their mouths, writes Peter Roebuck.

Supposedly sworn enemies with nothing in common except a hunk of wood and a chunk of leather, Test cricket and T20 continue to live happily together.

Of course it’d be absurd to judge a day whilst the sun is still rising but the evidence so far confirms that players and spectators are quite capable of adjusting to the contrasting demands of the longest and shortest versions of the game.

It is possible to appreciate a wide range of music, from the classical to the contemporary. And the same applies in cricket. Only snobs suggest otherwise, and they were born with lemons in their mouths.

If anything the last few weeks have confirmed that T20 and Test cricket have more in common than had been thought. What is more they are the most stimulating forms of the game. Both take their format to its logical conclusion.

Every other approach tries to have the best of both worlds, fast and slow, action and reflection. A single delivery can change the course of a Test match and T20 more emphatically than elsewhere. Every ball is critical and compelling.

Test cricket and T20 have another thing in common. Both were audacious creations. Have you ever tried to explain to outsiders how a match can last five days and still not provide a result? To them it is a mind-boggling concept.

Even within the confines of the game it has required mental dexterity to justify such an apparent waste of time. Indian philosophers talk about the Tao of the game. Englishmen mention the need for rigour. Australians point out that aggression can outstare a clock. Artists observe that great works cannot be constructed in the twinkling of an eye. By daring to allocate five days for the issue to be resolved, Test cricket provided a framework in which skill, courage, concentration and nerve could be tested to the utmost.

As a result masterful players were able to express themselves and teams could engage in the sort of titanic tussles seen in England in 2005 and India in 2001. Sometimes madness and genius are hard to tell apart.

T20 has likewise taken players to their limits. Nerves are taut for the entire duration of the contest, and the final ball brings forth a surge of relief or dejection. Along the way a hundred critical decisions must be made, field placements, shot selection, batting orders, bowling changes.

Captains must assess every pitch and adapt accordingly. As usual shrewd and active leadership has been rewarded. Openers must adjust their pace of progress to different conditions. Bowlers must have a range of deliveries in their armoury. Everyone must keep their heads in the denouement.

Players must master these skills before they enter the arena. It can be as hard to succeed in a comedy as a tragedy.

And it goes further. Precisely because matches are short and wickets vital, fast bowlers hurl the ball down at full throttle. Precisely because the humdrum is punished, wrist-spinners dare to try googlies and even flippers.

Fielding and running between wickets must be electrifying. Far from narrowing the game, T20 is encouraging exploration of its extremities. Test cricket and T20 let loose the dogs of war.

T20 does not take long but it cannot turn back the clock!