Love it or hate it, it's here to stay

HARARE - Twenty20 cricket.

The name changes from tournament to tournament, but the format stays the same.

Fast and furious cricket with pulsating music, an over enthusiastic public address announcer, and at times and depending where the game is being played, you can also be subjected to a cacophony of hand beaten drums, horns and my personal and pet hatred, the vuvuzela.

And yet despite all the unpleasantness that accompanies this false and fake way of playing a game of cricket, there is no doubt whatsoever that this format is here to stay.

One thing is abundantly clear about this version.

It has attracted many people who in the past referred to cricket as a game of baseball being played on velium to actually start paying an interest in the game.

Whether it is due to all the extras already mentioned, not forgetting the voluptuously dressed dancers, or the fast and free flowing nature of the game, figures both at venues as well as on television suggest that the popularity of cricket has risen.

Competitions such as the Big Bash in Australia, as well as the numerous events around the world have lured former haters of the game into loving it, even if it is only the condensed version.

There is always hope that sanity would prevail and that they would venture out into the deeper and more tranquil surroundings of ODI and especially cricket's purest form of the game, that being Test cricket of course.

But it is not only the previously unconverted who now follow the gentlemen's game, but the tentacles of this brash and over the top format have also extended into the dressing rooms of players.

Players who were once proud and at times even emotional to represent their country at Test and ODI cricket have now taken on the role of a mercenary as they travel from one country to another, paying scant interest to their surroundings as they gorge themselves on the feast pots of financial success.

Please don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to earn money and wanting to ensure the welfare of your family, as well as prepare the nest for life after cricket, but how much enjoyment do the big guns of international cricket get from the constant boarding of airplanes, hotel rooms and everything else that goes with the package of being a mercenary cricketer?

When you have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars playing in the various tournaments around the world, is there still any form of pride and passion when you walk out onto the turf of your home ground, knowing that you will be earning nothing in comparison to playing in the IPL?

Do players learn or value old traditions such as team spirit when they are constantly on the move?

These statements and questions are probably just the grumblings of an old fossil who finds it hard to adapt to the constant changes of the game, as the pros seemingly outweigh the cons when looking at the huge crowds T20 cricket attract.

Hundreds of millions of people on the sub-continent surely can't all be wrong. Or can they?

Doesn't it seem strange that ever since the inception of T20 cricket, and more specifically the IPL, we hear of terrible stories of players being caught up in devilry such as match/spot fixing?

Bookies and players exchange large amounts of money on a regular basis, tarnishing the game in the process and planting seeds of doubt in the minds of spectators whenever an upset occurs.

As I was preparing to write this story, I delved back into the archives and watched/listened to the highlights of Zimbabwe's three run over India in the 1999 World Cup, when Henry Olonga's dramatic three wickets over produced one of cricket’s most talked about wins.

If Zimbabwe ever were to pull off such a dramatic win again, questions would almost certainly be asked and enquiries would be made as to why a certain player dropped a catch or mis-fielded a simple stop on the boundary in a crucial period of the game.

10 years ago, we would have put that drop catch or mis-field down to nerves, saying that even the greatest and most experienced players succumb to pressure.

This doesn't mean that match-fixing has only started with the advent of T20 cricket, but it has unquestionably made both players and bookies more confident to step out and try their luck, and then put it down to the fast nature of the game.

The positive side is that it has made Test cricket more attractive and exciting to watch, as teams now look to score at a brisker rate, and are also quite prepared to chase down totals in excess of 400.

So the bottom line is this.

Love it or hate it.

T20 cricket is here to stay.


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