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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Grand or grind, one-day cricket not out at the crease: An open letter to T20 cricket

As Australia and South Africa tried to outsmart each other in the second semi-final at Eden Gardens on Thursday, the author slipped into ODI’s soul to write an open letter to T20, the teenaged cousin, to let know that contrary to perception, the 50-over game is very much alive

Sudipto Gupta Published 18.11.23, 09:41 AM
Supporters cheer on Australia during the second semi-final of this World Cup against South Africa at Eden Gardens on Thursday.

Supporters cheer on Australia during the second semi-final of this World Cup against South Africa at Eden Gardens on Thursday. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha

Dear Twenty20,

Hope you are enjoying your time away from the spotlight. It’s not often that you take a break nowadays, hopping from one league to the other as you sell cricket’s latest, ready-to-consume offering.

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For a change, I’m doing fine too. The World Cup is on, and with you not at the crease, the world is rediscovering my relevance in more ways than one.

On Wednesday, when the Indian batters were busy sending the ball into the orbit, I was reminded of you. Though it was a 50-over-a-side game at the Wankhede, your influence on it was unmissable. As many as 724 runs and 38 sixes were reeled off, that too in a World Cup semi-final! You have taught batters how to cross the threshold of risk, and when it all comes together, it’s certainly a spectacle to behold. Thank you!

But you know what, I missed you more at Eden Gardens, when Australia fought it out with South Africa for a place in Sunday’s final against India. Not because this match was as explosive as the first semi-final, it wasn’t if explosive translates to only four and sixes. But if you were here, we could have sat on the upper tier of the BC Roy Clubhouse, with the cool November breeze caressing us, and we could have watched how in these times of big hits a simple story of survival on the Eden greens was turning out to be a big hit. Believe me, you would have loved the way one team was throwing the challenge and the other fighting tooth and nail to counter it. That too is cricket. It always was.

The first 10 overs — they have named it the Powerplay, a desperate attempt to make me relevant in terms of the markers that you have set down for the game. At the Wankhede, India scored 84/1 in their first 10 overs, the crowd loved it. At the Eden, South Africa were 18/2 after their first 10. The ball moving left and right under an overcast sky like a mischievous snake, the Proteas batters were trying to tiptoe past the dangers. And guess what, the spectators, at least most of them, were as engrossed. Within 24 hours, I had two contrasting games, I loved both.

I love the textures, the varieties that I can afford in my form of cricket. But can you? Could South Africa have dared scoring less than 20 in 10 overs if they were playing a 20-over game? Despite that slow start, the Proteas, led by David Miller, carved their way out of trouble, accumulating runs like a diligent accountant. They had the time to do it. I give cricketers that time. Yes, big brother Test too offers the gift of time, but his is a steep trek, mine is a long drive.

I know people call me “dead”, “boring”, “out of fashion” when they compare me with you, but I’m neither. I am Glenn Maxwell’s one-legged double hundred, I am Virat Kohli’s 50th ton, I am the rebellious Afghans, I am the World Cup. It’s
not the people who think I’m outdated, not when almost 50000 turn up to see a match which doesn’t involve ‘their’ team, it’s the authorities and some players who are partial to you because of the riches you promise. It’s their narrative.

Without me, the game would collapse, because I’m the bridge. No kid would want only to be a Test cricketer and lose out on lucrative T20 contracts, and if it is only about 20-over cricket, the Test format will cease to exist, because no one would know how to play it. It’s through me that a cricketer can learn the tricks of balancing between the conservative and the outrageous.

You might ask what the future holds for me. With prejudices at play, honestly, I don’t know. It’s for Grandpa ICC to sort out. If bilateral ODI series doesn’t work out, do away with it. Let there just be the World Cup and the Champions Trophy, with a month of practice matches, the big meets will still be a big pull as specialised events. Even better, bring back the tradition of triangular or quadrangular ODI meets, they provide a far better competitive spectrum than the bilaterals.

Anyway, let’s leave it to time. I will be busy for the next couple of days. I plan to cook Nihari for the India-Australia World Cup final in Ahmedabad on Sunday. You know what Nihari is? Forget it, you wouldn’t know.

Your ‘dead’ cousin
One-day International

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