T20Is have become an integral part of the schedule, but the ICC should treat the format for what it is – a bit of fun.
Entertainment. Getting bums on seats. TV ratings. It doesn’t matter what format it is anymore – that’s what cricket is about. That’s why there are plans in place to shorten Tests to four days. It’s why the ODI rules in place allowed India and England to break the record for the most runs in a three-match series last week.
T20s, meanwhile, are a breeding ground for innovation. Fireworks, cheerleaders, flashing wickets, player microphones, new players, new shots. The format leads from the front in terms of entertainment because it’s in and out; it’s the shortest format, so every ball is an event. The sixes are hit longer, the wickets are more regular, the field placings are more unusual.
It is not, however, the most important format. The recently-concluded T20 series between the Proteas and Sri Lanka promulgated that. The Proteas lineup was barely recognisable, the rain-affected 10-over bash in the first game was a farce in determining who the best side was, and Russell Domingo walked into the post-series conference with a huge smile on his face, despite losing. It became obvious how seriously this was taken.
So why, ICC, do you schedule T20 series bang slap in between the longer formats?
The scheduling of this series provided no context for this format whatsoever. It’s an ODI year – the Champions Trophy is coming up and the emphasis is on the 50-over format.
What this T20 series did do was reaffirm that Test matches are the pinnacle. There were six debutants in the T20 series. You’ll never see that in Tests, because … well … they are the ultimate test – you field your strongest XI. Domingo wouldn’t dare smile after a Test series loss, and the repercussions of losing to Sri Lanka in the longest format would have been dire.
So to get to my point, T20 international series should be scheduled at the beginning of a tour. They’re still massively important to a tour – they provide entertainment and, as I eluded to earlier, they are used to see how far cricket can be pushed in terms of innovation, which is a fundamental tool to moving the sport forward.
But at the end of it all, T20s are supposed to be fun, and they should be treated so. So they should be the curtain-raisers to the longer formats – the proverbial fireworks and prelude to whet the appetite.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images