Twenty20 a smash

Before the ICC Twenty20 World Championship started there was a lot of talk about the format that would be played, and what benefits it held for global cricket. Some people had labelled it as ‘hit and giggle cricket’ and thought it was a bit of harmless fun, while others had a more derogatory approach, claiming that Twenty20 wasn’t even a form of cricket, and that it doesn’t deserve to be played by international players. Now, after the inaugural world tournament, some people will have changed their mind with regards to how they view Twenty20. Some still claim that it’s all for fun, and the results don’t matter. Try telling that to Joginder Sharma, faced with bowling the last over to a rampant Misbah-ul-Haq in the final of the World Championship, with the hopes and dreams of over a billion Indian fans resting on his shoulders.

Of course there are supporters of Twenty20 cricket, the ICC included, and these people believe that the new format will help to develop the game globally, attracting a larger audience and increasing crickets profile amongst those who view cricket with disdain, or who find it to dull to endure. There are a large number of gimmicks to help with this development. Dancing girls, music, cheap tickets and a thrill a minute sporting spectacle all helped add to the entertainment and the crowds in South Africa reflected how popular the game was. Besides, there is no real concern about Twenty20 cricket surpassing Test cricket, as much as some people like to claim there is. The ICC are smart enough to realise that the purest form of the game will always be the most superior, and Twenty20 cricket, while a popular invention, will remain a sideshow and not take over as the main event.

The World Championship itself was a huge success. The sight of the Indian team celebrating after their win over Pakistan was enough to show that the players cared, something which was in doubt before the tournament started, and the crowd attendances showed the interest that the games had sparked in South Africa. The global popularity was massive, as millions of TV viewers tuned in to watch the inaugural world event, and this kind of positive publicity is bound to attract more and more viewers to Twenty20, and hopefully the other formats of cricket as the ICC seek to expand the game into new regions. The victory parade when the Indian players returned to Mumbai was huge, as thousands upon thousands lined the streets to praise their victorious heroes, an amazing sight to behold and a reminder of how passionately these fans follow their teams fortunes.

In addition to the entertainment side of the tournament, the cricket was of an excellent standard. Some superstars were missing from their sides, as Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and Australia’s Shaun Tait were unable to play due to injury, while India’s big trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly all made themselves unavailable for selection as they look forward to a busy schedule over the coming months. Shoaib Akhtar, the fastest bowler in the world, was sent home in disgrace just days before the tournament commenced after an altercation with fellow Pakistani bowler Mohammad Asif, in which an alleged assault took place. Without some of these superstars, and the inclusion of minnow nations Zimbabwe, Scotland and Bangladesh, some expected the standard of cricket to be quite low, especially as some of the players were still coming to grips with the format and what approach they needed to take.

However, it was the minnows that produced some of the best cricket during the tournament. Zimbabwe upset Australia in one of the most exciting fixtures, and Bangladesh advanced to the second round, eliminating the more fancied West Indian team. This was refreshing to see, as we all to often expect Australia to stroll through these tournaments, much like they did with the Champions Trophy and the World Cup during the past year. There was some brilliant individual cricket also, with Yuvraj Singh becoming the first person to hit six sixes in an over of Twenty20 cricket, and in the process scored the fastest half-century in history, taking just 12 balls to reach the mark. The opening match got underway with fireworks, as Chris Gayle notched up the first ever century in Twenty20 cricket, and remains the only person to do so. The cricket wasn’t all about the batting, and several bowlers turned in amazing spells, Mark Gillespie claiming the best figures of the tournament with 4/7, although nobody yet has managed to take a five wicket haul.

All in all, the Twenty20 World Championship was amazing. Some high standard cricket and matches with extreme intensity, the likes of which will stick in the memory for quite some time. In the end though, it wasn’t all about the cricket, and the ICC and Cricket South Africa did a stunning job of organising and running the tournament, for which they should be applauded. Also, the Indian team, victors of the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships, take a bow.

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