Twenty20 cricket has gone from a lighthearted aside to a money-making, fundamental plank of the sport’s global schedule in just under 20 years.
With the eighth T20 World Cup set to begin on Sunday in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, AFP Sport examines the game’s big-hitting, crowd-pleasing style.
Due to a tobacco advertising restriction, the Benson & Hedges Cup one-day competition was discontinued in 2002, leaving a void in English cricket’s domestic calendar.
The England and Wales Cricket Board’s marketing manager, Stuart Robertson, proposed a 20-overs-per-side event, a format that is currently popular in amateur and junior cricket.
The goal was to appeal to a younger demographic that might not have the time to devote to longer forms.
In 2003, the first official Twenty20 county matches were held, and they were a huge success in terms of spectator attendance.
More than 27,000 people attended Middlesex’s match against Surrey at Lord’s, the greatest crowd for a county match at the “home of cricket” since 1953.
That success was observed everywhere, with the frenzied speed, particularly the explosive hitting of batsmen, proving popular with spectators all around the world.
Even so, there was a feeling that this wasn’t ‘real cricket.’
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The international game
Both teams wore historical 1980s uniforms for the first international T20 encounter between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park in Auckland in 2005, with New Zealand dressed in an exact recreation of their ‘Beige Brigade’ colors from the time.
Some players even sported artificial beards and mustaches to emulate the era’s fashions.
“I think it’s impossible to play seriously,” Ricky Ponting, Australia’s man of the match, stated.
The International Cricket Council took notice of the format’s growing popularity, and the first men’s T20 World Cup was held in South Africa in 2007, with India defeating arch-rivals Pakistan in a thrilling final.
Just as India’s victory in the 1983 men’s one-day World Cup transformed the perception of the limited-overs game in the world’s most populous country, so was this triumph in cricket’s economic powerhouse nation.
Looking to capitalize on that success and concerned about the Indian Cricket League, a private T20 tournament, the Board of Control for Cricket in India introduced the Indian Premier League in 2008.
Not only did this effectively end the ICL, but it also revolutionized cricket’s global climate, particularly the power ties between national boards and players, with the new six-week tournament.
Leading cricketers could make huge sums of money in a short period of time because of the city-based IPL, where clubs were backed by wealthy private owners and rosters were assembled through player auctions.
Traditionally, the best method to make money in cricket was to establish yourself as an established international in multi-day Test cricket and then take advantage of the lucrative sponsorship arrangements that followed.
However, with the introduction of additional leagues such as Australia’s Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League, a worldwide T20 circuit was now possible.
The IPL has transformed the game so much that the ICC has practically banned international men’s matches during the tournament’s normal April-May period in order to keep top-class cricketers accessible.
The ICC created the World Test Championship — which New Zealand won this year — in an attempt to boost the five-day game, and Virat Kohli, the captain of beaten finalists India, declared in August: “For me, this is the ultimate peak of the game.” I can tell you that for as long as I play Test cricket, I will give it my all.”
But it remains to be seen how long Kohli’s attitude will survive in cricket.
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