Thursday, June 20, 2024

CLOSE-IN: It’s time now for Instant T20 Cricket – Let’s sit back and enjoy it (IANS column)

The days of fast and rapid delivery in everything we do are in vogue. Although brewed coffee is gradually once again making its mark, it is the instant variety that is trending around the world. Cricket is also following along the same path.

The next World Test championship is in the initial stage of the 2 year cycle period. The final will be held in England at Lords in the summer of 2025. The Test championship is a good initiative by the ICC to popularize the conventional form of the game, however, it only comes into prominence at the last stages of the tournament. The brewing till the finals of the championship is a slow process, which, for a cricket lover, finally culminates into a delicious and tasty cup.

Unfortunately for India, they have been in both the finals till now and have failed to clinch the cup on both occasions. The Test series between countries will have its interest, however, the shorter and instant form of the game T20, will be the one that cricket connoisseurs will be following with interest.

The Cricket World Cup T20 in June’24 to be held in the West Indies and the USA is a true reflection of how cricket has inched towards global participation. The final 20 teams that have qualified apart from the 10 established cricket sides are from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Asia East-Pacific and Europe. This is instant cricket, the T20 format, at its best because it is opening the doors to the game truly worldwide.

The T20 leagues being played in different corners of the world, with the Big Bash and the Indian Premier League leading the way, has made cricket into a rip-roaring entertainment. It has proven to be a match-winner for the game, as people have once again filled up the stadiums.

The T20 franchise-based format has given the sport of cricket just the financial and professional garnishing that has benefitted the cricketers and everyone else associated with the game.

India just finished a successful 5-match T20I series against Australia by beating them 4-1 in India. Both the countries had young players who were being tested for the big World Cup to be played next year. It was nice to see a full-capacity crowd at all the smaller Indian venues, especially, as both sides were without many of their superstar players.

India with the same young squad on Sunday, under the captaincy of Suryakumar Yadav, will be playing South Africa in a three-match T20 series. It will be interesting to see whether the South African spectators will come to watch in huge numbers.

More than win or loss, the players who have still to get an IPL contract from both sides will have their eyes set on performing well before the Auction to be held in Dubai on December 19. The contracted Indian T20 players will need to show consistent performance as well, as they have the senior Indian players to compete with once they return.

The Indian selectors have a difficult job on hand. The selection of the Indian T20 World Cup side is a daunting task. Although, the format is most suitable for a young, fast and flexible player, inducting one in place of an older experienced one, who is fit as well, is a very difficult proposition.

India in the next two months have nearly 40 of their top cricketers playing South Africa and England in all three formats of the game. This includes the India ‘A’ side as well.

However, one feels the IPL performance of a player may take precedence in the final outcome in the selection of the Indian T20 side. This is where India faltered in the past and one hopes they do not do so now. The inclusion of Dinesh Kartik as a finisher in the last T20 World Cup was a case in point.

In Australia, it is the Big Bash League that is being keenly followed by the IPL franchise owners, hoping to get the best of talent, from the players playing in it, into their squad.

The interesting part that has arisen from T20 cricket is the capability of a batter or bowler being able to master the conditions in order to be successful.

The most enjoyable form of cricket for millions of fans and followers will be the cricket showpiece in the year 2024. With the World Cup just around the corner, it is time to sit back and revel in the awesome stroke-play and innovations that have become a part of the explosive and instant T20 matches. An exciting prospect for one and all.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)

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