World T20 Struggling to Match the Big Leagues?

Posted on Mar 16 2014 - 11:55am by IBC News

Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) soldiers participate in a mock scene as part of security preparations for the ICC World Twenty20 Cricket tournament at a stadium in Dhaka | AP

It is hardly any su­­rprise that Shahid Afridi has played the most number of T20 Internationals. Four ot­­­­her Pakistanis feature in the top-10 of the list. Contr­a­­­stingly, you have to scroll d­own to the 25th entry to s­p­­ot an Indian — unsurpris­i­­­­­n­gly Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

To interpret the observation blindly, India haven’t quite embraced the format. But think again. Analyse their respective non-international T20 numbers. Dhoni has figured in 22 more matches than Afridi.

The reason, too, is merely stating the obvious. Afridi and his fellow Pakistanis are castaways in the great Indian (money-spinning) Premier League, while Dhoni and his country have fully indulged in it. Of the India skipper’s 163 T20 matches, 96 have been in the bright-yellows of the Super Kings.

This clearly explains the dynamics of the shortest format —wherein the ultra-glamorous and the incredibly lucrative IPL and such-like leagues have obscured the relevance of T20 Internationals. It is either reckoned a warming-up prologue to a more meaningful series or a mere epilogue that is forced upon a writer.

Even the pinnacle of it, the World Cup, seems like a mere sideshow, a two-year formality than a festival.

It seems like a charity T20 league, where the perks pale in comparison with IPL Even the build-up is anodyne, with teams almost suddenly waking up to the reality that a World Cup is round their corner. Not that there isn’t any lack of motivation for the players, but there isn’t the revelry that marks events of such magnitude.

Take India’s case. They have played only five T20 Internationals since the 2012 World Cup. Worse still, in the last 15 months, they have played just one. It doesn’t bother Dhoni, though. “Most of the teams, if you see, don’t play a lot of T20s. Especially with the kind of schedule we have, I don’t think we’ll be able to accommodate more than one or two T20s (per series). We have got the IPL where we have played with the best players and the standard there is as high as international standards, so that really amounts to the experience we need,†Dhoni said in his pre-tournament press conference in Dhaka.

Hence, they exist on the periphery, more like a satellite to a planet than the other way around. But it is not only the fly-by-night league that can be blamed for T20I’s prevailing stasis, but also the condensed nature of it, dictated by a consume-and-dispose philosophy. “The T20 format is shorter, performances are even shorter. Before even realising that something has happened, it gets over. So it is naturally hard to recollect a T20 match. Then there is the question of skill. In T20, you don’t struggle for a wicket because the batsmen are hitting. Similarly, technique alone doesn’t matter for the batsmen,†observed former cricketer Madan Lal.

Seven years since its inception, the T20 World Cup is still evolving. They have corrected a few wrongs of the last edition. Like, they have uniformly distributed the marquee clashes and not clustered to the back-end. Also, the minnows will have a tougher road to the main draw, though it slightly drags the tournament. Likewise, they have scrapped the humdrum of Super Eights. Maybe, the tournament should be less frequent. But such positive measures wouldn’t matter much unless the competition asserts its relevance. And that would be this edition’s biggest challenge.