By Nishad Pai Vaidya
In the middle of 2007, the cricket world was still coming to terms with the failure of the 50-over World Cup in the West Indies – which didn’t garner enough interest to draw the crowds to the grounds. With the mega-event failing with its long-drawn format, many doomsayers believed cricket needed to find a solution to up its popularity. Then came a refreshing format – one that was gradually gaining ground all over the world – and presented a peak into the future. The ICC World T20 2007 was a remarkable success and should be considered a turning point for cricket in more than one way.
While many were sceptical about cricket’s future, they may not have given significant weight to the fact that India and Pakistan – two major powerhouses of the game – were eliminated early from the World Cup in the West Indies. The logical conclusion would be that it robbed that tournament of a massive fan base which may have made it a success. At the same time, the World T20 2007 was successful majorly because the same two teams had remarkable runs and progressed through to the final.
The young Indian brigade under Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the title and it aptly marked the coming of a new age. T20 cricket was set to take the world by storm and touch areas previously unconquered. The Indian team winning the tournament without the services of the old guard – Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly – was previously presumed impossible, but in hindsight that was fitting when one brings the bigger picture into perspective.
Since then, T20 cricket has come a long way and has probably evolved into a more threatening form. The fervour and excitement caused by the World T20 2007 started a wave – the first ripple being the Indian Premier League (IPL). At first, cricket in an entertaining form looked good, but then it started getting on ones nerves as the very sanctity of the game was under threat. With the arrival of the IPL, other cricket playing nations carved out their own T20 leagues – something that poses a threat to international cricket.
What one mustn’t forget is that cricket is essentially a country-based sport and not a club-based game like football. The passion of a fan for his national team is unparalleled and a franchise wouldn’t generate similar fervour. Football is a unique sport which has maintained a good balance of fanfare between the international and the club level. However, the country vs country system is deep rooted in cricket and is safe for now. It may take some time for the foundations to shake. This is why the ICC World T20 is an important tournament as it combines the exciting format in national colours.
The last two editions of the tournament were played immediately after the IPL and one could feel that there was an overdose of T20 cricket. One can enjoy chocolates in small helpings, but a meal would certainly disturb the system. There was still some anticipation for the 2009 tournament as it was the second edition where India were to defend their title. However, the 2010 edition didn’t have the same aura as it came less than a year after the tournament in England.
The World T20 2012 is a significant event simply because it hasn’t been eclipsed by an IPL in the lead-up. It is free from such inhibitions and cricket fans can actually look forward to this experience. The glitz and glamour surrounding the IPL and the Champions League T20 (CLT20) tournaments in the last two years have often taken the sheen off the cricket. However, one can expect the teams to get down to some serious business in Sri Lanka to bring laurels to their respective countries.
However, there still remains an overdose of T20 cricket ahead with the CLT20 2012 scheduled immediately after the World T20. The scheduling is so illogical that the CLT20 commences two days after the final of the World T20, leaving no breathing space for the players. Some of them may even have to hop on to a quick flight to get to South Africa. The only positive is that international cricket (World T20 in the case in point) would be the centre of all the attention and excitement.
T20 may be cricket’s golden goose, but the administrators may end up killing that lucrative bird with their insatiable greed.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)