Will Twenty20 change cricket forever?

Cricket has shed its image as a dull, unattractive and lengthy sport after the spectacular success of the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship.

The event, which ended on Monday with India beating Pakistan by five runs in a rousing finale, created such a stir that Twenty20 is now being hailed as a revolution that will change the leisurely sport forever.

There were more thrills and excitement packed into two weeks of non-stop action than in the entire six weeks of the 50-over World Cup in the Caribbean earlier this year.

Crowds thronged the three venues in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban as sixes, boundaries and heart-stopping finishes provided a cricketing spectacle unmatched in recent times.

West Indian Chris Gayle slammed the first ever T20 century in the September 11 opener, Zimbabwe stunned Australia, Bangladesh ousted the West Indies, Aussie Brett Lee took a hat trick and India’s Yuvraj Singh hit six sixes in an over.

There was even a tie between India and Pakistan in the league, India winning the bowl-out not by runs or wickets but with a 3-0 football-type scoreline previously unheard in cricket.

That two of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the shortest version of the game outwitted the big guns from Australia, South Africa and England to contest the final only added to the drama.

India had played just one Twenty20 international before the tournament, Pakistan only two against major teams, yet the arch-rivals conjured a dream final at the overflowing Wanderers stadium.

The champions celebrated in wild style, the losers went out with their heads held high, knowing there was very little to choose between the traditional rivals.

Many want Twenty20 cricket to replace the 50-overs-a-side internationals as the limited-overs game complementing Test matches, but all three versions have a place—for now.

Tournament director Steve Elworthy, a former South African Test seamer, said the Twenty20 format will help improve Test and one-day standards.

“The change is going to impact all of cricket,” he said.
“If you can go eight an over in 20 overs, in the 50-over game you can go at six at least.

“So 300 in a 50-over game should be a par score.

“The impact on Test cricket is going to be just as profound. Teams will be much more positive and think that if we bowl out the opposition and need 200 in the last hour, it’s still on because in 20-over cricket we’re scoring 200.”

International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed admitted the success of Twenty20 had thrown down a challenge on how to balance the world game.

“Test cricket we value greatly, 50-over cricket is the financial driver of the game and now we have Twenty20 which has proved immensely popular,” said Speed.

“It’s a great problem for us to have, a format of the game that is so popular with fans, players and broadcasters.”

Ironically, the tournament was won by a country that had shunned the short version fearing it would sideline the lucrative one-day internationals.

Not any more. India will now not only have it’s own T20 Premier League but also take part in a $5-million Champions League involving some other ICC nations.

India have also been invited by American businessman Allen Stanford to take part in a winner-takes-all five-million dollar T20 game against the Rest of the World in Antigua next summer.

Fans can’t get enough of it, so Twenty20 is here to stay. - Sapa-AFP

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