OK, I’ll lay my cards on the table: I quite like Twenty20 cricket. There, I’ve said it and I know there are people out there who will shake their heads, tut, and think “There goes another one.”
I quite understand where they’re coming from. But I don’t think most of those who would term themselves “traditionalists” – and I include myself among their number – actually dislike this form of the game for what it is; their anitpathy is based more on the fear that forms of the game that they have grown up with, nurtured and come to love to will be lost for good.
So when I say that I like it, I mean in its place, which means not in place of other forms of the game and not to saturation point.
I share the fear of a wholesale takeover, especially when you have people like Lalit Modi and Allen Stanford pulling the strings; Stanford, a Texan billionaire, alarms me with his determination to make Twenty20 – and by implication, cricket, – the biggest game in the world. Why would cricket boards around the world feel this is necessary? Is it the fear that if it is not embraced by the Americans, it is of little import?
Cricket, to me, is at its best, a form of concentrated relaxation, a kind of meditation – and, though I don’t partake, encourages the sort of contemplation, an escape from the frantic-ness of the real world, that anglers enjoy as they sit on a river or canal bank, waiting for a bite. You can only really get this in domestic four-day cricket and five-day international cricket and, to a lesser extent, 50-over competition.
Twenty20 is not an escape from this; it is a dive into more of it. It brings instant excitement, a brilliant way to spend three hours, but will it entrance in the long term? I feel the crowds would soon dissipate – indeed, I hope they would – if there was a Twenty20 international almost every day
And OK, watching Kevin Pietersen smash 50 off 25 balls may be a treat, but it’s almost too short and sweet. If you had the chance wouldn’t you want to spend more than 25 balls or so in the company of such a batsman? Is not Twenty20, in some respects, too little of a good thing?
Hopefully, in a game unique in offering itself in so many guises, there will be room for the Buddhists among us as well as the ravers – and even those who like to be both at different times.