With the bash brothers version of the World Cup for cricket about to start in South Africa, Gideon Haigh details the history of the shorter foms of the game.
Twenty20 seems so fated to take over the world that it cannot be long before batsmen start hitting four4s and six6s, and falling for duck0s. But the underlying idea of making cricket faster, shorter, simpler and sillier is an old one. In fact, for a game whose commandments sometimes seem to have been handed down on clay tablets, cricket has throughout its history been interpreted with disarming freedom.
Nor should it be overlooked that the model of an 11-a-side two-innings game on which "first-class" cricket converged was only one of a host of cricket variations in use 200 years ago. Cricketers still took the field against one another as individuals, in single-wicket competition; as threes, fours, fives and sixes, in double-wicket competition - and against odds, often apparently overwhelming. When the first English team toured Australia from January 1862, it played 11 of its 14 games as XIs against XXIIs, and not until 1946-47 did English cricketers undertake an Ashes tour in which every game was on equal terms.
Sometimes the concepts combined. In one of the most famous duels, in 1810 the great allrounder William Lambert took on Lord Frederick Beauclerk and TC Howard - and won by 15 runs to claim a stake of £100. This he did, apparently, with wides, which did not then count against the bowler, and which, legend has it, drove the combustible Beauclerk crazy. There were combinations, too, that not even ECB marketers have dreamed up. Near Rickmansworth in May 1827, for example, "two Middlesex gentlemen" were defeated by Harefield farmer Francis Trumper "supported by his dog", providing a windfall for gamblers: an event of potential historical significance to Cricinfo, Coral, and Krufts.
Political Umpire describes it as
like reader's digest cricket, or a book review rather than a book itself.
Seems to me that despite some of the poo pooing about Twenty20, this very commercial form of cricket has a great deal of potential. With increasing commercial interest in cricket and lifestyle changes limiting the time people have to watch cricket, this trend is likely to continue. The proposed Indian Cricket League, with a shorter format and short season is attracting a great deal of interest from current and recently retired marquee players, despite attempts by the cricket governing bodies to stifle participation. Television has voted with their cheque books, almost guaranteeing a success.
Despite all this at the essence, cricket still remains a competition between a batsman and a bowler and his buddies. All the other stuff is just noise.