Is 20 Better Than 50?
Back in 2008 the cricketing world was going crazy for Twenty20 cricket. The first World T20 tournament and the Indian Cricket League had just been held and the inauguration of the Indian Premier League, the Champions League and the Stanford Twenty20 for Twenty competitions were all imminent. “Surely this is the end of ODI cricket,” opined all the cricket journalists. T20 was ODI cricket “without the boring bits” and given the choice spectators would rather go to an after-work match than having to take a whole day off, while those who preferred sedate cricket would stick with the richness and subtlety of Test cricket. Weight was given to this argument by the badly organized and uninspiring (ODI) World Cup held in 2007.
Three years later and such opinions seem misplaced. Two of the above competitions have bitten the dust. Fans continue to pack the stands at ODI matches. The recent World Cup in India was a huge success commercially and cricketwise, despite journalists decrying the large number of one-sided matches in the group stage.
Cricket boards obviously still have faith in the full day game; typically a series consists of five to seven ODIs with one or two T20 matches tacked on.
So why then has the ODI format been so resilient? With more overs a good team has time to recover from a bad patch, but has to demonstrate their skill and determination haul themselves back into the game. In ODI, wickets make a substantial contribution to a fielding teams performance so attacking bowlers and attacking fields are important features of the game. In twenty overs, a team has little time to recover and so a couple of bad overs and the game’s all over bar the shouting. Consequently, miserly bowling and no-brainer field settings dominate, exemplified by the proliferation of ‘dibbly-dobbly’ medium paced bowling and defensive full-tosses. What the T20 format does well is to showcase the big hitting batsmen and condenses the action into a short period of time, which is great for children and newcomers and, let’s face it, fans who fancy a few hours of bash-em cricket. But the vast majority of cricket followers still want to watch, and pay for, a proper game of cricket.