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June 2009
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John Stern: In concern for Twenty20

June 2nd, 2009 by John Stern in County cricket, England, The Ashes, Twenty20

We have come to expect it with cricket, or at least we tolerate it. But Ricky Ponting said something the other day that ought to have been utterly shocking: “I don’t suppose I’ll be answering many questions about Twenty20.”

We all know what he means but isn’t it utterly absurd that we are on the eve of, in theory, a major global event in the form of the game that is apparently taking over the world and all anyone wants to know from the captain of Australia is who’s going to win the Ashes?

There are a number of lessons here. England first played a Test match against Australia in 1877 and the rivalry has been simmering for 132 years. Twenty20 has been around for six years. Football, for all its avarice and absurdity, has been around 100-plus years and the clubs that are now multi-national corporations have unique local identities, cultural symbols that have developed over decades.

Twenty20 may be popular in terms of putting bums on seats – though the novelty may be wearing off in the UK – and eyes in front of tellies but people still aren’t talking or writing about it.

Maybe it is just a matter of time but my concern is that Twenty20, certainly at domestic level in the UK, is simply entertainment in its most basic form: a night out with the lads, family day out etc. And what the hell is wrong with that? Well nothing at all if you’re happy for cricket to drift to the margins, to become just some sort of summer pantomime, a circus for the Noughties.

The Ashes is in the national consciousness, as is Test cricket in general. It has the capacity to grab the attention of cricket sceptics in a way that no other form of the game can. And that is what makes the game special.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Twenty20; I’m intrigued by its tactics, innovations and intensity. I want Twenty20 to succeed even though, as one eminent writer put it, it’s all action and no drama. I want it to nurture the next generation of cricket lovers. But I’m sceptical because I’m not convinced that anyone with power or influence is taking the long-term view. The ECB has already milked the life out of Twenty20 and next year will attempt to kill it off completely with a second 20-over competition that will undermine the perfectly successful and popular Twenty20 Cup. They’re calling it the P20 apparently. What sort of name is that? P20? Shame it’s not a 45-over competition.

And if anyone really had the long-term interests of the game at heart they wouldn’t have scheduled a World Twenty20 a month before the Ashes. Mad and bad.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in County cricket, England, The Ashes, Twenty20 |

2 Responses to “John Stern: In concern for Twenty20”

  1.   Peter Redding says:

    I agree. There are two many short-termist administrators running the game at the moment.

    I remember one of the commentators on TMS, think it was Angus Fraser, saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if the ICC held a global event every four years on the 29th February.

    I’m not sure why we need to have a Twenty20 World Cup every two years in any case. T20 is only beginning to grow and at the moment each country probably plays no more than 6 Internationals each year, if that. How can you prepare for a World Cup with with that many games?

  2.   King Cricket says:

    The lack of international Twenty20 games is half the point. Less is more. The last Twenty20 World Cup was full of must-win games that we couldn’t predict in advance. It made for great drama, despite the format being purely about action.

    A world cup is the best format to show off Twenty20.

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