On Target
September 28, 2007

Not for the purists

The recent 20/20 cricket world championship, staged in South Africa, and which ended last Monday, must have made the purists of the sport cringe in disgust at what this form demands, and at the same puke at every intake of serving.{{more}}

A person seeing the game for the first time through the 20/20 medium might have gotten the wrong impression of the beautiful aspects that cricket possesses.

But this is the way the game is evolving into an event where the entertainment value to spectators takes precedence over anything else, especially those who pay to view.

With each passing day of the highly publicised world event, I deduced that we are slowly losing the artistry, purity and finesse of the sport, as the mighty dollar has taken over. Yes, the dollars run things in today’s world, and change is inevitable, but straying too far from originality for the sake of commercialisation leaves a faint print on what was there at the start.

The bowl off between India versus Pakistan match in the preliminary round after the match was tied at the end of 20 overs each, likens the mandatory positive result on to a football penalty shoot out. That’s the extent of the impact of instant satisfaction and gratification.

Packed stadia at the venues, live music, dancers, fireworks et al, neatly packed into four hours of sapping energy, put the appeal for the longer forms of the game to a further state of rest.

Whilst there were some authentic cricket shots played in many instances, most of the other batsmen were forced to play innings out of character.

The poise and craft of England’s Kevin Pietersen were exposed as the demand for quick runs, erased the former attributes.

This new fast food diet of 20/20 cricket has effected a bloodless coup on the world stage. Its popularity and appeal to spectators have been instantly infectious and it seems not stopping of the charge.

The frenetic pace at which the game is played, the improvisation by batsmen falsifies the nature of cricket into a farce as indicated by some former greats. But their views are being neglected.

The same was said years ago when the proliferation of the One Day format took root in the 70’s. Years after, the same is being proffered as the 20/20 is in the driver’s seat.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), by staging the event, has given credence to this form of cricket. So those who don’t like it will just have to live with it. The start up of the lucrative India 20/20 league and here in the Caribbean the Stanford 20/20 tournament have added to what is the demand of the brevity of modern day happenings.

This shows that it is here to stay. And already, England is the venue for the 2009 version.

It will be interesting to see what profits have been derived from the first international tournament of its kind. I am certain they will be high.

Ironically, as the ICC promotes 20/20, we are seeing the decline in standards, attendance and interest at the longer version viz a viz test matches here in the Caribbean, but not in places like England and Australia.

We in the region have already lost our way on the cricketing map. In fact we have become tiny ethers of no significance. We were booted out of the 20/20 championship by the host and lowly rated Bangladesh.

As it stands, the West Indies can hold its own in neither in tests nor the one days, and in the new craze, we are aliens.

We were known as the Calypso Cricketers in the 1970’s and 80’s, as we played with gay abandon, flare and flavour. Now we are not even playing to ballads.

So what form of cricket must we hold on to? The task for us is to try to excel in one of the forms as we are just throwing ourselves at the mercies of the other cricketing nations.

Here at home, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) has still not heeded the call to remove the mound at the Sion Playing Field.

The residents and stakeholders are patiently awaiting its departure.