Your correspondent has been an early supporter of the World T20 Championship, having travelled to the first event, staged in South Africa in 2007. Way back then, England showed the seriousness with which they took the competition by selecting Chris Schofield and Darren Maddy in their squad.
India, too, were none too enamoured with a format they deemed as subordinate to 50-over cricket. Winning the inaugural competition – with Yuvraj smacking Stuart Broad for six sixes in one over along the way – changed their perceptions somewhat. Now we’ve had five seasons of the IPL.
As current World Champions, England are forced to take 20-over cricket seriously. But it would be a major surprise if Team Director Andy Flower were to claim that T20 supremacy doesn’t rank third in their list of priorities. The cricket administrators on the subcontinent may also claim this, though their actions speak louder than words.
That international T20 cricket currently plays second (or third) fiddle amongst the players is part of its appeal. It is a ‘hit and giggle’ format which allows for greater freedom and innovation from batsmen and bowlers alike. Tactics evolve year-on-year; England were clearly ahead of the game two years ago and have maintained a cutting-edge approach to strategising success. Gone are the bits-and-pieces players and T20 specialists; orthodoxy reigns, as demonstrated by Hashim Amla in the recent three match series between England and South Africa.
As the stock of ‘traditional’ style skillsets have risen in T20, the avant-garde strokeplay and bowling deliveries trialled in the short game have increasingly been adopted in ODIs and Tests. Switch-hits are no longer the preserve of T20 and slower ball bouncers have been released from bowlers wearing whites. This crosspollination of approaches has come thick and fast and adds to the spectacle on show in all forms of the game.
And while strategy can play a large part in success, there’s really little a captain can do if an opposing player smashes a 10-ball 32 to completely alter the momentum of the game, as England’s Jos Buttler did this week against South Africa. In a 120-ball innings fine margins will sway proceedings. In Test cricket, captains talk about winning sessions; in T20 teams look to win overs. Though that can lead to one-sided affairs it equally means that upsets are more likely. Beyond single games, natural orders can be reversed. Form fluctuates wildly. For instance, Australia are below Bangladesh in the ICC rankings. Predicting what will happen over three weeks in Sri Lanka is therefore a fool’s errand. Best just to sit back and enjoy the big hitting as you try to silence the voice in your head telling you that T20 will lead to the death of Test cricket.
World Ranking: 1 | Captain: Stuart Broad | Danger Man: Jos Buttler
World Ranking: 7 | Captain: MS Dhoni | Danger Man: Yuvraj Singh
World Ranking: N/A | Captain: Nawroz Mangal | Danger Man: Mohammad Shahzad
World Ranking: 9 | Captain: George Bailey | Danger Man: David Warner
World Ranking: 4 | Captain: Darren Sammy | Danger Man: Chris Gayle
World Ranking: 10 | Captain: William Porterfield | Danger Man: Kevin O’Brien
World Ranking: 3 | Captain: Mahela Jayawardene | Danger Man: Angelo Mathews
World Ranking: 2 | Captain: AB de Villiers | Danger Man: Albie Morkel
World Ranking: 11 | Captain: Brendan Taylor | Danger Man: Hamilton Masakadza
World Ranking: 6 | Captain: Mohammad Hafeez | Danger Man: Saeed Ajmal
World Ranking: 5 | Captain: Ross Taylor | Danger Man: Brendon McCullum
World Ranking: 8 | Captain: Mushfiqur Rahim | Danger Man: Tamim Iqbal