The first of three Twenty 20s between England and the West Indies starts in about 10 minutes.
This format has been around since 2001, when the ECB’s marketing manager, Stuart Robertson, introduced it as a replacement for the old Benson & Hedges cup. The first T20s were played in England in 2003 and were an immediate success (the cup final that first season at Lord’s attracted over 27,000 folks, an almost unheard of amount of folks at a county cricket match). And then the format whipped through world cricket like a wildfire, much to the chagrin of most of cricket’s old guard.
And so while cricket is an old game with old traditions, the T20 is only a few years older than Twitter, and didn’t even exist when the towers fell in New York. It’s not even old enough to drink yet in America. And in that sense it is still finding its feet a little. Sure, it benefits from the infrastructure that existed previously, but the game is still a teenager: occasionally awkward, a little unsure of itself, mouthy and moody and loud. And in that sense I tend to give its more annoying qualities a bit of a pass.
And what are those? The cheerleaders, the rock music, the mercenary leagues across the globe. But those are all more the nature of the world rather than a problem specific to cricket. People want — or are told they want — flash and loud and bang bang bang in all their entertainment, including sport. My bigger issue is with the cricket itself: it’s not as fun to watch. The best players are usually rested, and the game becomes less about nuance and more about swashbuckling and sledge. It’s the cricketing equivalent of the home run derby. And I find that a little boring. It’s not wrong or bad, it’s not just my cup of tea. Down the road a ways, I think the format will branch off and become a completely different sport played by completely different players on completely different teams. In the same way that gridiron football spun off from rugby. Or, probably more precisely, rugby league versus rugby union versus rugby sevens: same church, different pews.
That said, for now at least, it’s still cricket in the sun. And it might not be cricket at its zenith, but it still has the capability to entertain, to be fun, to give us a nice break from the day to day nonsense of our lives.
The Twenty20: it’s still cricket. That should be its tagline