Monday, 10 September 2007

Twenty20: The Way Forward

Tomorrow, the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa begins. The format that was pioneered by the ECB has taken the world of cricket by storm since its inception in 2003. Despite the growing popularity of the shorter game, traditionalists have remained skeptical and some countries have refused to embrace Twenty20. This version of the game is the way forward for cricket to ensure it's long-term future and to attract young followers to the game.

The Twenty20 format was touted around as a method of gaining extra revenue for County Cricket sides. The fast-paced game would allow for spectacular shots and a result within a short period of time. Counties often scheduled their Twenty20 matches in their out grounds, but following the high attendances and public reception of the format, clubs held their games at their main venues in order to maximize profit. Young children were entranced by the spectacle. The county game is structured so that the clubs can produce good, young cricketers for the England team. While England test matches and One-Day Internationals are well attended, County Championship matches and Limited-overs games are not. Teams that do not have an England Test venue often fail to bring in as much revenue as those that do, and in order for these clubs to continue producing England players, they need money.

One only has to look at tonight's match between the Middlesex Crusaders and the Derbyshire Phantoms. In the first flood-lit match at Lords, the attendance was not quite what you would call a "full-house". In order for County Cricket to remain financially viable, Twenty20 matches must be on the agenda, even if that means scrapping one of the two 40-over tournament in the season. There are not enough England games to go around for teams to all have an international venue.

On the international stage, the scene is set for Twenty20 to become the predominant format of the limited overs game. The two last Cricket World Cups have been uninspiring to say the least. They have been marred by political controversies and poor organisation, not to mention the embarrassment of the Jamaican police following the death of Bob Woolmer. The games were rarely entertaining and the tournaments have dragged on for far too long. The promises of a West Indian carnival of cricket failed to materialise in the last edition of the tournament. The Twenty20 World Championship will last around two weeks and will be filled with match-ups, that if they stay faithful to the Twenty20 cup, that will go right down to the wire.

Twenty20 is a fantastic format that could bring cricket the masses. Indeed it could give county cricket a steady stream of revenue to allow it to continue producing players for the England team and allow international cricket to allow itself to have an exciting spectacle comparable to other sport's world championships.