Being an avid purist I was hardly drawn towards the “all that shines” in the T20 form of cricket nor have I been convinced so until this present moment. But sadly even cricket is an ever changing form of entertainment and a kind of a machine that produces gold coins for those who seek if through this form of the game.During the last century along the road, even Test cricket gradually changed it format. There was an era when Test cricket was played to an end irrespective of how many days it consumed.
I’ve heard of a certain Test match which was played in early last century, where the match was played till the ship left ashore, but, alas! The match was not yet over. Subsequently Test cricket was framed into a five day form with a rest-day tucked in the middle. Then as time went by even the rest-day was dropped off. All this was done in a bid to make the game more attractive to the fan.
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Once again in the 1960’s the pundits thought the game was losing its sheen once again and thus came up with the concise version of a one-day format to which the Australian publishing tycoon Kerry Packer hung some coloured pyjamas over and hung some bulbs around the ground so that they can play the game in the night.
Yes, the game seemed to have got a new lease of life with the limited overs format and the other fringes in the like of the Cricket World Cup and the Champions Trophy. Nevertheless commercialization and exploitation of sports through electronic media keep discovering new angles and convert the sport into a television audience ‘opera’. Initially this happened to American football and Baseball and the sheer impact of it made it look appealing to other sports too.
First it hit soccer and rugby union, and now the same itch has spread on to cricket in the format of T20 cricket. Television’s influence on this format is so much, at present the IPL T20 tournament is played in South Africa for the Indian television audience at Indian friendly times, yet the South Africans also throng the isles to witness this unique multinational event.
Indeed the IPL is unique by the mere fact that plethora of the international cricket community is engaged in an exercise that has brought all of them mingling with each other and performing side-by-side. Just imagine if not where would have one seen Sanath Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar or Adam Gilchrist and Herschelle Gibbs batting together at either end. That’s the good side of this whole exercise.
When the T20 concept was formulated a few moons ago, the world saw a very athletic form of cricket on show with all young limbs dominating this format of sport. So much so, for the last T20 World Cup tournament that was played in South Africa, India went without the experience of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Kumble and VVS Laxman, but won the trophy, under the new age skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
However in this IPL played in South Africa this theory of youth dominating T20 cricket seems to have proven somewhat wrong. This season the old stages have firmly perched themselves in the driving seat. Just to drive the point some of them who are now pitting themselves against the young generation already have retired from international cricket.
It was only the other day the Lankan legendary Muttiah Muralitharan said that Chennai team mate Mathew Hayden is “batting like a god”. In the same vein, veteran Muralitharan also is enjoying a tremendous outing in South Africa.
Among the batsmen, Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Sanath Jayasuriya, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have proven that their years of exposure have enabled them to reshape their game to suit the demands of this year’s tournament while other senior citizens the likes of Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith, Kumar Sangakkara Jacques Kallis have more than matched their skills with the rest of the gang.
With the ball, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble still hold their own way with batsmen in spite of giving up on their national crests. At the same time the Lankan maestro Muttiah Muralitharan still manages to contain whatever opposition is batting at the other end.
The exposure that the international cricketers derived from this IPL will hold in good stead at the Cricket T20 World Cup in England in June.
Among the Lankan contingent both Lankan new opening combination of Sanath Jayasuriya and T.M. Dilshan are in roaring form in spite of turning out for different teams. These two batsmen will be followed by the other two seniors in skipper Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena.
Reports reaching us indicate that the Lankan selectors are quite satisfied with the new approach of Sangakkara who has turned more positive. According to a selection insider “Kumar is very positive and is always looking for avenues to convert more deliveries into scoring opportunities, this is very encouraging.” Ironically he does not speak the same language regarding former skipper Mahela Jayawardena who has not come out of that rut that took hold around six months ago. Yet, he says that Mahela has the technique and the ability to come good at any given time. Also to impress the selectors at the recently concluded Provincial T20’s were Chamara Silva and Indika de Saram. Once again the selectors have kept their faith in Jehan Mubarak who will come in as a specialist batsman. It seems that promising Chamara Kapugedera have failed to keep his date with the selectors after his string of failures.
Rising star Angelo Mathews who was a prolific scorer in the domestic tournaments along with Farveez Maharoof who passed through a few question marks on fitness before getting a clean slate comes in as the genuine allrounders. Then comes the bowling battalion mentioned in batting order of merit – Thilina Thushara, Nuwan Kulasekera, Suranga Lakmal along with new comer Isuru Udana. However the almost certainty to play in most of the matches will be round-armer Lasith Malinga who in his comeback has been one of the most successful performers in the professionals laden IPL. However with the inclusion of Udana, Dilhara Fernando too may miss a trip to England.
Once again the spin department will be manned by veteran Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis who together form one of the most deadliest combinations and make Sri Lanka something to be reckoned with in this second edition of the T20 World Cup.