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 suÂÂrprise that Shahid Afridi has played the most number of T20 Internationals. Four otÂÂÂÂher Pakistanis feature in the top-10 of the list. ContrÂaÂÂÂstingly, you have to scroll dÂown to the 25th entry to sÂpÂÂot an Indian â€” unsurprisÂiÂÂÂÂÂnÂgly Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
To interpret the observation blindly, India havenâ€™t quite embraced the format. But think again. Analyse their respective non-international T20 numbers. Dhoni has figured in 22 more matches than Afridi.
This clearly explains the dynamics of the shortest format â€”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.
Take Indiaâ€™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 doesnâ€™t bother Dhoni, though. â€œMost of the teams, if you see, donâ€™t play a lot of T20s. Especially with the kind of schedule we have, I donâ€™t think weâ€™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,â€ 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 T20Iâ€™s prevailing stasis, but also the condensed nature of it, dictated by a consume-and-dispose philosophy. â€œThe 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 donâ€™t struggle for a wicket because the batsmen are hitting. Similarly, technique alone doesnâ€™t matter for the batsmen,â€ 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 wouldnâ€™t matter much unless the competition asserts its relevance. And that would be this editionâ€™s biggest challenge.