Test cricket lasts for five days and is totally long, drawn out and could be, many a times, a boring game, though purists and those international batsmen who are, at best, sedate, defensive and plod (with no capacity to convert good and bad balls into fours or sixes, but bat with patience, striving to safeguard their wicket and taking their own time waiting for runs to come by in ones or twos), may consider test cricket to be the true version of the game.
I personally feel that a player, especially a batsman, can hide his limitations in test cricket by playing a totally defensive game, without taking any risks, scoring runs at a snail?s pace and spending hours at the crease. Therefore, in the past there have been test matches that have not ended in results, but draws. Defensive batsmen are not suited for the 50 overs or 20 overs cricket, because these limited versions of the game expose their limitations and lack of ability to improvise.
There is one batsman of yesteryears, who played a very defensive game by conceding maidens after maidens to bowlers, rather than taking singles to give his partners the strike to get cracking at bowlers. Due to his paranoia or obsessions to create records and centuries, many matches that could have been won were drawn. However, without going into many details, he was totally unsuited for the limited version of the game because of his copybook style of batting and strict adherence to the cricket?s coaching manual. Today, the game has become so competitive that there is not much use of defensive batsmen and one could consider them in crisis situations as an excess baggage in the team.
I feel 50 overs cricket is true cricket, because it gives opportunities for everyone to excel and improvise, be it batsman, bowler, wicket-keeper or fielder. Moreover, it exposes the weaknesses that a cricketer may have. Sadly, though 50 overs cricket is of one day duration, nevertheless everyone does not get the opportunity to spare that much time, as many people have much work to do. Nevertheless, unlike test cricket, it is result-oriented.
However, 20 overs cricket is becoming quite interesting and absorbing and gives the spectators three hours of much needed fun. I personally feel 20 overs cricket is good for players who are in their prime, athletically fit and, as batsman, have the abilities to improvise.
Firstly, one should not be surprised if 20 overs cricket gets an entry into the Olympic Games and secondly this version of the game has very good chances of becoming popular in quite a number of countries in the world, where cricket is not played and/or heard of at present. One has to get one thing straight. However, popular cricket may be in India and the subcontinent, this game is not heard of in many countries of the world. I may be ruffling the feathers of the aficionados of this game, but could they tell me in how many of the approximately 300 odd countries of the world is this game played?
Moreover, there is a strong possibility of this version of the game becoming very popular in India, because enthusiasts and fans can watch it and then go about their work or business, rather than wasting a full day in watching 50 overs game or a test match of five days duration. Twenty overs game is good for the economy, as it will not affect it much with millions being glued to the television to watch it endlessly for hours.
24th September 2007 was a proud moment for India, when it became the world champions in this version of the game on its inaugural and the first country to have one of its batsmen to hit six sixes, the fastest fifty and also the longest six measuring 119 metres.
The Indian selectors had the common sense and prudence to pick up players, all of whom are young (and quite a number of them playing for the first time and it was a baptism of fire for them). The beauty of it is that India won without any illustrious names playing in the side who are just too old, creaky and past their prime to play 20 overs cricket.
If India wants to be a strong side in the 20 overs game, then it should stress on having as many genuine and young all-rounders in the side and not specialist batsmen who cannot bowl and specialist bowlers who cannot bat.
Nelson Lewis, Bahrain
Author: Nelson Lewis- Bahrain