When the first T20 match was played between Australia and New Zealand, Wisden Cricketer’s Almanack reported that “neither side took the game especially seriously.” In fact fans were told that T20 was just that a bit of fun and would never be granted full international status. That was of course before they realised how much money could be generated from this format of the game.
Now T20 is a huge part of the International and Domestic cricket calendars around the world and it would appear it is here to stay. If ever proof was needed one only has to look at how India reacted to the resounding victories their side recorded in the format against Australia. It has even been labelled “historic.”
Ironically India was a reluctant entrant into the world of T20 cricket and it was only following their victory in the T20 World Cup in 2007 that changed that view. The IPL was first contested in 2008 and vast sums of money were paid to the T20 players.
There are people, like this writer, who see it no more as light entertainment and can never take this form of cricket with any level of seriousness. We are dismissed as purists and traditionalists, labels that sit comfortably.
T20 has little or no history so far and in most cases is a very lopsided affair in favour of the batsman. Yet if you read the papers in India one would never believe it.
Reporters have clamoured to hail their victorious side claiming that no Indian team has ever challenged the Australian side let alone steamrolled them in their own backyard. So what was once seen as a diversion to the more serious format of Test cricket is seeing a major shift in the psyche of the Indian fans and reporters.
Let us not forget that India were unable to record a win in the Test series down-under, and were beaten with ease in the longer One Day International format.
For the next month the India team will play nothing but the T20 format as they prepare for the T20 World Cup in India. There will be the Asia Cup, the World Cup and then the IPL, a glut of fast food cricket.
As many who follow this format of the game it is a brave man who will predict a favourite in any competition, but some in India are following their team’s “Historic success” in Australia have installed the host nation as favourite.
One thing that may be a blessing in disguise is the fact that Pakistan look like withdrawing from the tournament to be hosted by India due to security issues surrounding their players. Will this damage the credibility of the tournament? Another team will gladly step into the breach so it is unlikely.
With the World Cup coming before the IPL if India do indeed win, then IPL viewing figures are predicted to move into another stratosphere and that could spell real trouble for the traditional format of the game.
There will be a number of other sports in India hoping that their side does not win the title again, as hopes of their sports gaining media coverage will become even more unlikely, while fans of the true history and traditions of the game will be hoping the same so that so semblance of perspective can be restored, and T20 returned to be a format of the game that few take especially seriously. It becomes simply a bit of entertaining fun.