With the twenty20 world cup on my doors, it's big hitters' time! Finally cricket got exciting!
How to make cricket appealing to people like me: twenty20
If you're part of the former English empire, and a sport supporter, September 2007 is your dream month of the year.
With two world cup being played at the same time - the rugby world cup in France
(and Wales?), and the cricket twenty20 world cup here in South Africa
- hopes are high for all the countries that used to bow (or still do) to the Queen.
Unfortunately if you're English then you probably started this month with the usual very high hopes (after all England is the previous World Cup Winner in rugby and the cricket time after the embarrassing ashes was improving), just to get double humiliations on the northern and southern hemisphere.
0-36 against South Africa
and consecutive defeats against Australia, South Africa (again!), New Zealand and India
(with THAT embarrassing 36-runs over
) probably crushed your spirit. Yes, the rugby team is still in, but for how long?
Probably only few years ago I wouldn't even noticed those two events. Maybe the rugby team (Italy is playing, not for long though...), but sure not the cricket. Only 6 years ago I didn't even know what cricket was!
Now, if someone who doesn't natively speak English (excluded US and Canada) and doesn't belong to the Southern Asian area (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc...) tries to watch normal cricket on the television, it would be disappointed by the relative low speed of the game, and the gigantic length of it (1 WHOLE day for a one day match? 5 DAYS for a test match?).
Indeed, trying to understand what is going on in this sport that seems something like a cross between baseball and a picnic in the park
is quite difficult to people like me without that kind of cultural background. And probably the people at the ICC
(the FIFA of cricket) were worried that after more than a century you still had pretty much the same 10 teams playing. What can you do to expand the game, and make it more marketable?
Twenty20 is the answer.
Some fielding restrictions, only 20 overs per team, 75 minutes max per inning. And with the reduced format, even more daring shots to get that "home run" (6 points) and enough points to win.
I've desperately tried to get some tickets to see some of the big names (South Africa, Australia, even England) but all the tickets in my area (Johannesburg, at the Wanderers Stadium) were sold out. Someone Lindsey's sister, Jill, got two free tickets to spend the whole day at the stadium and watch Australia vs. Pakistan and later Bangladesh vs. Sri Lanka.
Unfortunately the first game was way too early to just leave work, so Lindsey drove me (yes - still looking for a damn car after 2 months!) to the stadium to see the two Asian teams playing against each other.
Now, I would never watch a football game at the stadium between minnows. It would be just boring. To make it more exciting we decided to support a random team each, and whoever lost would do something against his/her will. Lindsey decided to support Bangladesh and made my wear a pink shirt if her team won.
The game was much shorter than the 150 minutes planned. Sri Lanka reached a half decent score (147/5) but they managed to literally destroy Bangladesh by bowling them out in 15 over for a 64 runs victory (83/10!).
The game was enjoyable, the stadium almost full for such a late game and the food was ok. My team won and that was the best thing.
I know that many cricket fanatics (and players) will tell you that twenty20 is not the future of the sport, but a tournament where Zimbabwe win against Australia, where 6 sixes are hit in one over not against some small team (Holland in the last world cup anyone?) but against England, where in 20 balls you can reach 50 runs, where matches start and end in a short period of time and where the YOUNG crowd just goes ballistic for the whole inning (or you'd rather want the tennis-like silence and old crowd and the Lord's?) is not the next step of this sport, well, then cricket will always be played by the usual 10 teams and always be considered a (long and boring) curiosity more than a real sport...