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Twenty20 only a money spinner

The ongoing Indian Premier League, which has attracted a galaxy of stars in world cricket has also attracted a lot of attention. It has been a money spinner changing the fortunes of not only the cricketers taking part but changing the destinies of the game as well.

The lucrative Indian Premier League was introduced to take the glamour off the Indian Rebel League. Initially, much attention was focused on the Indian Rebel League but the ICC and the Indian cricket authorities took prompt action to control the situation. When the top international players were warned not to associate with the rebel league, they naturally settled for the official one.

Unimaginable lucrative deals were offered to international cricketers, who struck deals of their lives. For example, our own Sanath Jayasuriya, the master blaster, had one of the highest offers - USD 975,000 way ahead of his team captain Mahela Jayawardena.

Several other Sri Lankan cricketers, including Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and Chaminda Vaas, had attractive offers. They joined the star-studded line up of Indian side teams which comprised many reputed international cricketers.

The organisers and the sponsors of the Indian Premier League made every endeavour to get worldwide attention for the Indian Premier league. Surprisingly, none of the international tours or ICC schedules did not affect the Indian Premier League, probably because of the money involved.

But what is happening actually in Twenty20 cricket is nothing but some instant cricket, which ruins the game. It's neither the established game that we are used to for centuries nor the traditional limited over.

Perhaps Test cricket may look boring to the Western world. With lives of people becoming too complicated and busy, sports enthusiasts may not get a chance to allocate a full five days to watch a Test match.

But a result for this too was found in the early 70s with the birth of limited over cricket. Initially from 40 to 45 overs a side games it has now become a standard 50 overs per side one day internationals. Once, the ODIs were considered the real 'cowboy' game. With coloured clothing and day/night matches, the ODIs turned out to be a real crowd puller and money spinner.

But that status the ODIs had for nearly three decades is fast fading away with the Twenty20 cricket. As my colleague and Consultant Elmo Rodrigopulle described in his widely-read column on Tuesday, Twenty20 cricket could be best described as 'Kill cricket'. In short, the Twenty20 version has turned out to be a killer syndrome that the would soon put the glorious game to an unexpected death.

As Rodrigopulle points out, there is no exquisite timing, no straight bats, no playing the line etc. It's just baseball-style sans the finer points of batsmanship.

A batsman does not need that much technique or that much of thinking but a wild hit at the ball could earn him the boundaries.

Also this style of game is not played by opposing schools, clubs or countries. So the participants are playing 'pandu'.

True that we need sponsors to support sport but the finances that they pump should not become the ultimate decisive factor. We should not let the desires of the sponsors or the money the Twenty20 cricket generates to decide the future of the game.

The Twenty20 version of the game put players under tremendous pressure. Though it could become a lucrative trade for pinch hitters, participation in too much of Twenty20 cricket could ruin any top bowler in the world. Unlike in the Tests or even in ODIs for that matter, the Twenty20 cricket puts bowlers under severe pressure, thereby preventing bowlers from any attacking actions.

Instead, the bowlers would prefer to be on defensive mode from their very first over. From their first run up to the delivery mark a bowler would only think of a strategy of preventing a boundary, instead of aiming for a wicket.

It is high time for the ICC to establish a high profile panel of eminent cricketing personalities and evaluate the whole process. They could do some comprehensive research and make an effort to ascertain the current situation. Of course there is no harm in having Twenty20 cricket without much official status or having it once in a while. But the present level of progress would definitely be the killer.

When the rebels started a Twenty20 tournament, the ICC was not in favour. Perhaps they would have thought that there is too much of cricket and also that they are going to lose the grip. The ICC outlawed the Indian Cricket League, tagged as Rebel League, but gave their consent to the Indian Premier League. But there was a reason for that. The ICC was probably frightened of the clout the Indian Cricket Board wielded and had no other alternative, but succumb, as Rodrigopulle said.

Repercussions of the Twenty20 cricket would not be seen immediately. But within the next decade, we should be able to witness the pathetic downfall of the game. In future, batsmen with technique and excellent timing would be hard to find. Anybody, who could do a bit pinch hitting for a few minutes, could become a much sought after batsman.

Similarly, there won't be any attacking bowlers. Bowlers who have courage to dictate terms to batsmen would be hard to find. Instead, we could find some defensive bowlers, whose aim would be only to prevent sixes and fours. At the same time, there won't be any more bowlers who could take a chance of adopting various tactics to capture wickets. No serious thinking or strategy is needed.

Unless we take remedial action right now, the future of the game would be gloomy. I am not saying we should scrap Twenty20 cricket altogether. But there should be a limit.

An overdose of Twenty20 cricket, just to cater to the demand of sponsors and to fill the coffers of cricket governing bodies, and players would definitely have a huge negative impact on the game.

Hence, it's the duty of the ICC to take prompt action. The ICC has been tagged as a toothless tiger but one hopes when it matters the most, in a situation like this, the toothless tiger would sprout some teeth and move into action.

 

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