Wednesday, September 12, 2007

One day and twenty20 cricket - commercialising cricket ..

The twenty20 cricket world cup has started in South Africa on 11 sept 07. There are great hopes and aspirations of this world cup among the cricket playing countries of the world. The motivating factors behind such shorter versions of the game is the main focus of this article.

Almost a hundred years back, cricket had it's history as a pasttime being resorted to by the shepherds of England whiling away time while grazing their sheep. It then caught the attention of the elite in England with framing of the rules and the competition mode came up. The five day version was the competition mode of cricket with each side getting two innings to pile up a total alternatively and the winner
decided on who got the biggest total. The number of wickets which was lost in arriving at the total and the number of runs by which a team won were prestige issues among cricket playing nations. The traditional rivalry between England and Australia in the Ashes and the bloodline series are great events in the history of cricket. The game soon spread to the other English colonies across the world.

Around early 1980s, Kerry Packer, the media businessman from Australia running channel 9 started the limited one day version of the game exciting with coloured cricket balls used to bowl initially sixty overs a side and then reduced to fifty overs a side. The earlier white dress gave way to coloured dresses. Many an exciting contests got through and many world cups, India won thePrudential World Cup in 1983 in England ( I was fortunate enough to be in front of the TV in Trivandrum, Kerala to watch the full match running late into the night) made the game very popular in not only the cricket playing nations but across the world. With improved popularity of the game, advertisers started flocking to the people holding telecast rights and big money was there to be made. Some of the great players made enough money for at least the next five generations in a short span of five to ten years.

I was really surprised to recently hear of the still smaller version of the game, with twenty overs being bowled by each side, with a match not going beyond four hours at the most.

The test version of the game concentrated on the style and techniques of the game. The game which had no time limit was later restricted to five days with a rest day in between and later on even that was done away with. The tenacity of the team to withstand pressure, hold on and being able to play for long durations were onsidered qualities befitting a cricketer. It was very surprisingly that fortunes of the game changed. A team which was favourably placed in the morning used to get out by tea time and the opposing team used to enter the field. The play time which was restricted to six hours a day, two hours before lunch , two hours before tea and two hours before close of play of the day, had an extra fifty mandatory overs on the final day after the final post tea session. These mandatory overs saw the end results of many a game in test cricket history.

A hectic lifestyle of the people and shortage of time to watch the game for five full days led to interest being shown to the limited version of one day cricket which lasted for seven to eight hours. The latest entry of twenty20 lasting for three to four hours is a still limited version and for the first time a world cup is being organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to popularise this version of the game. The game is more or less acquiring the status of a base ball game, getting over pretty fast and sadly or not, the focus isgetting shifted from the techniques and style, stressing on gentlemanly qualities to the brash hitting of the ball where fitness and strength is valued more than technique, in short brains are getting replaced bybrawns.

Whether this change is for the better future of the game or whether commercial interests are corrupting the game, only time can tell.

George easaw

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