T20 has transformed Cricket and not for the better

I’ve always loved the movies, with all their Tinseltown trickery, twists and thrilling plot developments.

Sometimes, as in “The Usual Suspects”, you can only clap your hands and acknowledge you didn’t see it coming.

In other cases, there’s a sense of “Is that it?” That was my feeling at the end of “Moon” by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones and “The Sixth Sense, which was so bleedin’ obvious.

Sport, though, is meant to be a tale of the unexpected. When two good teams lock horns, the outcome should be in doubt, because, well because, that is the way it should be.

But Twenty20 cricket has transformed all that. And, most assuredly, not for the better.

I’ve just watched a T20 contest between South Africa and England. If you missed it, well done! It was an object lesson in how to serve up botched batting, bumbled bowling and bloody awful fielding.

This event attracted over 19,000 spectators, which is more than the crowds who watched any day of the Test series between these sides. And yes, I’m a traditionalist. But I don’t think that prohibits me from voicing three short, sharp messages.

Firstly, who thinks these tussles are ruining cricket as we know it? The batting effort of both teams was a mixture of incompetence, ineptitude and innate lack of, dread word, discipline. Almost nobody dug in, eked out runs, or managed an innings in the old-fashioned way.

Secondly, and I dislike being critical of umpires, what happened to officials trusting their own judgment without having to rely on DRS? England collapsed in a heap to 134 for 8, and that should have been the end of it, but the umpires kept making mistakes. Mind you, so did the players.

This is in a climate where Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been accused of match-fixing. One where Asad Rauf has been banned for five years. One where …but you get the picture. As for Friday’s match, easy catches were spoiled on such a regular basis it beggared belief.

Not with the broadcasters, although that will eventually happen.

And then, a few years from now, cricketers, young guys with mouths to feed – and it’s still no excuse – will admit they got out first ball or fluffed a catch or bowled consecutive wides, not because they got it wrong, but on behalf of spot-fixers in Asia, America and the Australasian market. They will be full of contrition, packed with remorse. And what will it mean?

This brings me to my third point and I can express it very quickly. To wit, why doesn’t the ICC devise a register of the best T20 players and demand they all sign a legal document, insisting they and their buddies have no contact with bookmakers. And, if found guilty, they never play again.

I once asked the great Scottish athlete Liz McColgan, a world champion in 1991, who was conned by Chinese cheats the following year, how to deal with offenders.

She said simply: “They should be banned for life. End of story”.

I agree 100%.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    I reckon the bowling has got worse in T20. So many bad balls delivered when the batsmen are on fire.
    For mine T20 cricket is important but must remain as an entree, not a main course to the cricket feast.

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