I just read this very numbery article. If you’re not into statistics and numbers you’re going to be quite numb at the end of it. However, if you’re not into statistics can you truly call yourself a cricket aficionado? Hmm?
Clearly Mr Date knows his data well and there are some interesting and clear indications of his position; that T20 is not cricket. Not in the old-fashioned “it’s not cricket” or not the done thing, but the nature of the game of T20 is, in his words, “a disfigured caricature of cricket”. In other words – he doesn’t like it. Kartikeya Date has a blog dedicated to cricket with some very interesting posts and is well worth a visit. (Disclosure – I do not know him at all. I discovered him via espncricinfo. )
I agree. T20 is a about how hard and far you can hit the cricket ball. It is not a battle between bowlers and batsmen. Kartikeya’s data shows us that, clearly. Check out the scores in these two games played by Netherlands in the current T20 World Cup. In the first game the Netherlands scored runs at a remarkable, record-breaking rate (or rather hit the ball better than anyone else in recent memory) to win. In the very next game they scored a mere 39. Now you’ll trot those hoary old sayings about the “glorious uncertainties of cricket”, I’m sure, but I’m pretty sure that good teams win more consistently in the ODI and Tests than they do in T20 because ODIs and Tests aren’t so much of a crap shoot. Kartikeya, how about analyzing that? What is the level of certainty of performance of the major teams in the three different formats?
Talking of formats, I think T20 is not a format, it is a different game entirely. The audience is different, the bias is different, the commercial intent is different, the objectives and the methods used are different. ODIs borrow heavily from Tests, the notion of circumstances, environment, condition of the state of play, ball, weather etc. play a larger role in ODIs.
And that is the real reason why T20 is not real cricket. When we had Tests only, there was so much for the fan to worry about.
1. The pitch: Is it going to be fast and bouncy? When will it start breaking up?
2. The weather: Is it going to be cool and overcast? Is rain expected? What about the wind? Will it help the oppositions left arm swing bowler or will it nullify his impact?
3. The teams: Should we play 3 spinners or just one? Should we drop our attacking legspinner in favour of the offbreak bowler because the opposition has so many left handers? Should we pick 3 tall fast bowlers and drop our most promising spinner? Who opens the batting? Should we surprise the opposition by picking a left-right combination instead of our established all-right pair? Will that neutralise their tall and fast left arm bowler who likes to bowl over the wicket with the wind over his right shoulder?
4. The toss: Should we bat first or put them in? What’s the weather report like? Do we have the fast bowling strength that can exploit the early life in the pitch? Do we want to bat last in a chase?
5. The game: Remember the choice of rollers? What ever happened to that? Should we use the heavy roller to help the pitch break up so our spinners can use it to their advantage in the fourth innings? Should we take the new ball when it is due or hang on because the spinners have such a stranglehold right now? How long do we delay it? Should we switch the left armer over to the other end? Should we shut down for the day now or push ahead? Do we attack the score and push for a win or play for the draw? When do we declare?
6. The field placements: With no artificiality in place, we need to figure out the best way to place our fielders. How many slips? Do we need to take one of them out and move them to a second gully? Push fine leg squarer for the right handed batsman who likes to sweep? Or bring him finer because he likes to glance it down off his hips? What adjustments do we make for each batsman? For each bowler? For each bowler to each batsman for each end for the state of the play? Or the time of the day?
In T20 none of that matters, really. For T20 has reduced the game to it’s very basic core: Ball is delivered by bowler. How many runs can the batsman score off it?
Here is my recommendation.
Make T20 a senior’s game exclusively. You must be over the age of 35 and have retired from Tests to be eligible for T20. You must be selected by a club team. Club teams may be international. So for instance Italy, Finland or Malta could field a club team as well.
This will make this a marquee parade for the world’s best and then can be taken around the world – like a Formula One circus and used as a entry point for non-cricket-playing nations. “Here are the world’s best showing you a sample of cricket. Come and see real cricket! Tests – the pinnacle of strategic game playing!!” You can keep the dancing girls and scantily clad cheerleaders. The uninitiated audience will need them to tell them when to applaud, when a six has been hit or a wicket has fallen. Put Bernie Ecclestone in charge… he’ll show us how to make money with a disfigured caricature of a once proud sport!
It will become an aspirational reward for young players. Once they have proved themselves in multi-day cricket they can continue to earn even more rewards in their declining years. It will also allow them to play strokes, learn to build an innings and work their way out of trouble. It will encourage bowlers to attack more freely. It will encourage bowlers, period.
As always – your comments are welcome!