The Heavy Roller

One cricket fans candid opinion…
My opinion on t20 has come full circle since it’s inception. I initially thought it was a great innovation, something fresh and exciting that could reinvigorate what was at the time a fairly stale cricketing landscape. I also didn’t think it would ever be taken very seriously, something akin to beach cricket for the masses. A couple of years in and I held grave fears like many others that it was growing into an evil monster, stealing all the limelight and the money (and in some cases players from the International game), and ruining players techniques. However, I now consider myself a t20 enthusiast and advocate, and more than just enjoying the format, I think the rise of t20 can be directly linked to crickets current standing as the fastest growing sport on the planet, and the second biggest overall behind football!

As I have said in previous posts I consider myself a cricket traditionalist. For me test cricket will always be the ultimate test of bat versus ball – skill, patience, mental toughness and smarts all combining in 5 days of glory! In this age of ‘quick-fix’, instant gratification, Internet and video games, young people are more enamored with the glitz and glamour, and fast paced action that t20 brings – personified by the IPL. And as kids have always done, they will try to emulate their hero’s. It’s not uncommon to see a 9 year old cricketer attempt a ‘switch hit’ or back-of-the-hand slower ball at training. I have personally witnessed this in Canada recently, where cricket has huge potential, and if managed correctly should become a major sport in the 5-10 years. One of the first things I noticed amongst batsman here was their reluctance to ‘leave’ the ball?!

So are we producing a generation of cricketers who won’t be able to bat for long periods, and who don’t know what a ‘stock ball’ is? Or is this just a phenomenon in the non-traditional cricket nations? Is test cricket in danger of becoming even more irrelevant!?!

I don’t believe this to be the case.

For one thing good cricketers will adapt and excel at whichever format they are playing. Yes there are examples of average test players who have become short format superstars, but in most cases their success has been a flash in the pan.

This translates directly to young cricketers learning the game as well. Every young batsman loves the feeling of slog sweeping the spinner over mid wicket for 6! However, pitch conditions and the match situation don’t always allow for this to be the best course of action. Playing straight is still the best course of action when the pitch is variable or the team is in trouble, and good young players will work this out regardless of the format. The old adage still rings true… “Play each ball on its merits”. Likewise with the bowlers, the best course of action is to plug away at a fourth stump line ball after ball. 4 or 5 different variations in an over can sometimes keep a batsman guessing, but can also make it hard to set a field, and opens up different scoring options to the batsman. Again, good players will know when the match situation dictates a boring line and length as the best course of action.

These young cricketers though, are now developing with a whole bunch of new ‘arrows in their quivers’ thanks to the technique innovations encouraged by t20. These different shots and deliveries (as well as fielding techniques) can be used in the right situation in any format of the game, making t20, limited overs, and test cricket more exciting!

I am also under the impression that test cricket is far from becoming obsolete, in fact I think t20 will spawn an entire generation of new test cricket fans who were introduced to the sport via the short format when they were kids. When most cricketers grow up they discover that test cricket, with all of its nuances, is the ultimate! I hope I’m proved right.