Monday, Sep 15, 2014

In T20 era, once-coveted ‘Test status’ well past sell-by date

Netherlands' performance in the World T20 was a revelation for cricket fans. They beat the Irish in a thriller, then scared New Zealand, had South Africa looking very embarrassed for a while and eventually beat England. (AP) Netherlands' performance in the World T20 was a revelation. They beat the Irish in a thriller, then scared New Zealand, had the Proteas looking embarrassed for a while and eventually beat England. (AP)
Written by Harsha Bhogle | Posted: April 4, 2014 12:46 am | Updated: April 4, 2014 4:10 pm

It has been a World T20 to remember so far and while the stars have sparkled, the big teams with the big guns have made a statement, the lesser fancied have demanded attention. At world events they are often the whipping boys, they play their games in smaller towns, at off peak hours and are the recipients of snooty comments. They take that with a shrug and a smile and keep playing. Often they play for the right reasons!

Occasionally they make a statement, like the Irish did against England at the World Cup of 2011, or indeed against Pakistan in 2007, but most times they are the starters; just placed as the mandatory offering before the main course. But something interesting is happening in T20 cricket that augurs well for them, and therefore for the rest of the cricket world.

The Netherlands were brilliant this time. They beat the Irish in a thriller, then scared New Zealand, had South Africa looking very embarrassed for a while and eventually beat England. Only the tricky, unorthodox Sri Lankans floored them. At other times Afghanistan, Ireland, Hong Kong and plucky Nepal had their moments. They certainly didn’t look like amateurs who had strayed by mistake into a pro event. And, lest we forget, they are largely amateurs in an increasingly rich world of T20 cricket.

But something else is happening too. While there have been early adopters in England and South Africa, T20 cricket is really only seven years old. And as it departs from the way it has been played traditionally, it opens up opportunities for those who would never have been able to compete in the old sport. The learning curve for test cricket is far too steep for the associates, indeed even in fifty overs cricket, they have a lot of catching up to do. But in this new format that has taken the world by storm, they are almost on a level playing field. They are learning like everyone else from almost the same starting point. And I believe that, like the internet whose possibilities everyone was exposed to at about the same time, T20 cricket will genuinely democratise cricket; in course of time will give everyone an almost equal opportunity.

Look at the paddle sweep and the scoop for example. They are both recent entrants to the game and young kids in India or Australia are being exposed to it at the same time as young cricketers in the Netherlands or Nepal. Television is playing messenger and coach and with lesser continued…

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