Is 20/20 cricket?

I am a traditionalist who thinks that the 5 day Test match is a great game. Like all cricket fans I can be engrossed by the struggle of ball against bat, when to the non cricket lover “nothing happens”. A long period of no or low scoring balls can be a fascinating contest. I can go home after a Saturday at the Test not knowing who will win, well satsified if I have seen great bowling and skillful batting. I like to see the game played in whites on a lovely English ground like Lords.

I am also someone who thinks change and the future can be exciting. I do not wish to live in the past. I find 20/20 cricket is simply the most exciting, adventurous, brilliant team game the world has so far designed. In just three hours you will probably see more than 300 runs scored, around 15 wickets taken, and drama on each ball. There are frequent dashed singles, attempted run outs, big hits, and aggressive bowling. There is an ad break in the middle, different coloured clothes, and modern crowd participation. I love it too.

20/20 is a different game. We may need specialists in the two different types of cricket. Knowing how to play the long game with solid defence and classic strokes may still be a good grounding for 20/20, but the cricketer will need to develop and adapt from that if he is to succceed. 20/20 needs a very different approach to stroke play, bowling line and length and to risk taking. 20/20 is unlikely to be a good training for Test cricket, where patience and temperament are so crucial.

There is a place for both games. Many more people will enjoy the thrills and spills of 20/20. Many 20/20 lovers will never grasp why some of us can go and see a whole day’s cricket, see not many runs or wickets, come away still without a winner and think we have had a good time. Those of us who do love the long game should understand the immediacy and pleasure of 20/20. It will involve many more in a type of cricket. There is room for both. 20/20 could become the type of cricket that the US wants to play, and could become a cult global sport if the cricket promoters get behind it. It certainly has plenty of commercial potential.

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21 Comments

  1. A. Sedgwick
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    With you on this, 20/20 is good to watch, exciting and can be riveting but it is for the specialist or exceptionally talented players. A player, who crafts and builds an innings, is obviously not suited. Its popularity does question the number of 50 over games that should be played. This format does hit the doldrums between 20 – 40 overs and maybe should be restricted to knockout tournaments. Although a fan of Test cricket I do think it needs to get into this century a bit more e.g. 30 overs must be played before a lunch/tea break, bad light decisions purely for umpires(no light meters), no substitutes. Some rules need to looked at too, I would favour removal of runners, leg byes, when stumps broken – dead ball and the ball has to cross the boundary for 4. Best wishes.

  2. alan jutson
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Yes 20/20 is exciting, thats why so much money is being splashed about.

    Yes you will probably get the USA involved, as a result/winner is forthcoming, and they would see it close to a baseball concept game, unlike 5 day cricket.

    Remember once trying to explain to some US visitors the basic rules of the game.

    They could not get their head around playing for 5 days and not getting a result. Their idea of a result was of course a winner.

    I could not understand why their Presidential election campaigns last for 18 months and they got Bush.

    Discussion a Draw.

    What we really need however is some MP’s who have some 20/20 vision for the future, so we can sort out the mess we are in.

  3. Stephen
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    As a purist who also enjoys 20/20 (although it’s not cricket), I hope the success of 20/20 means we finally see the end of the dismal and damaging one-day game.

    • Dr Bernard Juby
      Posted June 20, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Normally I get fed up with cricket blotting out Radio 4’s usual (funny) programmes so I am not normally a cricket lover. However I well remember sunny Sunday afternoons wat5ching the local club matches. They only lasted an afternoon and evening and were enjoyable. It’s probably wjere I got my hay-fever from lying in the long grass! Meanwhile I can’t deny that 20/20 is exciting stuff, not exactly up to Wimbledon of F1 though.

  4. Robert Eve
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I absolutely agree with you John.

  5. Working Class Tory
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Whilst it does have commercial potential, I rather like the closed set of countries that play it – Commonwealth countries. The USA joining would certainly take it worldwide and swamp us with 20/20 and probably subsequently test-playing nations.

  6. Humpty-Dumpty
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    No, 20/20 isn’t cricket………but Twenty20 is. Come on, at least get the terminology right!

    OK, it’s not the quality of Test cricket, but it’s filled a spare couple of weeks with cricket. Bring on The Ashes!

  7. Demetrius
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I find watching the grass grow to be the interesting bit. Having all these hominids crashing around working off their ego’s just gets in the way. It is just one of the many expensive activities in the modern world that expanded on the back of industrial developments that will have to downsize to its earlier form. This will be as a localised folk sport that might take place when the weather and ground was right, and there was time before sunset. Even better, once more we could make up our local rules, and forget all the administrative and media super structures.

  8. Duncan
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I agree. The shorter form of the game also brings more varied results as it’s possible for a team, or even a few players on a team, to have a good day and turn a match. It’s also more pressured which can lead to mistakes. The longer you allow for class, consistency and resources to tell the more the potential field of winners narrows. That’s why Hull can beat Arsenal in a game but finish well below them over the course of a season. Baseball is a good example of this. The Red Sox are top of their league but have lost 27 out of 67 matches. The shorter game will bring more varied results and give more fans a taste of glory. This motivating factor will make it easier for less established cricketing nations to promote the game. I’m not sure how many times a Dutch cricketing team has made it to the front page of the Algemeen Dagblad but I’m sure it can’t be much.

  9. wonderfulforhisage
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    There is a place for both games. Agreed, and it’s not Lords.

    My bet is that the five day game will suffer the fate of the red squirrel, forced out by its flashy new world cousin.

    Bah, humbug.

  10. Mark
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Several places I worked ran occasional 20 overs a side matches against other firms or departments in the evening after work (2 overs per bowler max 10 yard run-up, 30+ runs retire batsman). Very participative for all, including the social afterwards.

    In the US, I found club cricket and rugby in the Houston area (not just expats either), and in NC. Strictly baseball/softball in DC, NY and Chicago. However, it will take a lot to get them adopting any format as a TV sport – they still don’t watch soccer (unless they’re Mexican), although the rising generation plays – especially the girls. 20/20 would adapt well to frequent ad breaks though, with high chance of the drama of a wicket after the break as concentration gets broken.

    However, it’s much more magical to have seen Lillee and Thompson in their prime, or Viv Richards taking a bowling attack apart. There are few highlights in knockabout cricket that will stay as long in the memory – perhaps David Hughes hitting 24 in the final over to win a Gillette semi final is one of the earliest. These days if I pay to go to a ground it’s to a full test match.

  11. Paul
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    It shows you how an old “fuddy duddy” sport like cricket has well and truly got the drop on “street smart” football with innovation and the use of advanced technology for important decisions. Then again cricket isn’t goverened by a European quango and football is.

    As a dedicated football and hockey fan I had never taken much interest in cricket, but have been to at least a couple of 20/20 matches every season for the last few years and find myself becoming more and more of a fan.

  12. Julian
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I was quite dismissive of 20/20 until I watched the recent England Pakistan game and really got the excitement of it. I think it’s pity we dont have 2 or 3 big indoor venues for all year round games. Cardiff could stage a competition in the winter months.

  13. Mike Stallard
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    In 1958, I left school and my housemaster wrote on my report; “He is not a cricketer.”
    He was right then.
    And he still is…….

  14. Bazman
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Will the BBC showing these cricket matches for free? I do not watch sport in any form and so am absolutely a firm believer in pay per view increasing the quality, access and availability of these popular peoples sports whilst also giving the choice to watch or not watch. With technology today it should be possible to have the choice to watch every match or game in a picture quality/number of cameras, at a price the free market dictates, obviously any final would be showed at a premium price. Imagine the profits and improvements to the game to be made with Scotland in a world cup final? Even I would pay to watch that, though I would not know which company to choose for my viewing pleasure.

  15. Adrian Peirson
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    How on earth am I supposed to bang on about us coining our own money on a post about Cricket !!

  16. rik
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    To be honest I do not like cricket much in either form. But I did enjoy reading your balanced and pragmatic article. It is so refreshing to read an opened minded argument which is not tempered by a polarized point of view or resorts to extremes of an argument to promote a self interested view point. I may well check out the new 20/20 game.

  17. David Belchamber
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Have you played it, John? It can be exhilarating in the extreme but luck can play a tremendous part. Look at the results this time: Australia, India and England all out before the final rounds and Holland beat us in a thriller. I played against the Dutch side many years ago and they were extremely good. A 19 year old Dutch leg spinner explained to me that he had two types of googly: one a very obvious one and the other that turned just enough but wasn’t obvious!

  18. Stuart Fairney
    Posted June 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    JR, What about using your good offices to get the Pakistanis to play their ‘home’ tests over here until they can play in Pakistan again. You could more or less guarantee sell outs and their 20/20 warm up against India was remarkable.

  19. Independent Grub
    Posted June 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Good cricket is good cricket, test, 50, 40 or 20 overs. The world cup has been great fun to watch especially with the up and coming nations doing well and causing a couple of upsets. 20/20 will help develop the skills of many players – you will need a few specialist players to do well at the format, just wish Worcestershire had a few!! What we don’t want is long drawn out test matches like in the Windies with 500+ runs each innings and the teams batting it out to a draw.

  20. David Keen
    Posted June 22, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Most of us club cricketers have been playing 20/20 midweek since Boycotts grandmother was born. At under-13 level in Sheffield we used to play 14-over games (8 a side), and nobody ever suggested it wasn’t cricket.

    2020 is making bowlers, batsmen and fielders more skilful, but as you say it’s a different sort of game from Test cricket, and there’s a place for both. I’d still rather watch a Test than a twenty20 game – part of it is the experience of a day out with some mates and a few beers, and it still feels like the ‘pure’ form of the game, if that doesn’t sound too elitist.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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