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Friday, September 14, 2007

Twenty20 Cricket - the debate continues

Yesterday's article looking at the evolution of Twenty20 cricket provoked some interesting comments from readers. Some feel that the Twenty20 game is the only one worth watching, while others see no problem at all. So clearly, this issue is one that polarizes opinion.

Some of those comments have been quite thought provoking and in this follow up article, I thought I'd address some of those issues very briefly.

Different strokes for different folks

The first, and one of the most interesting comments comes from David, who is the author of the Harrow Drive cricket website. He's pointed out that in the UK, first class (4 day) crowds are totally different from Test match crowds. These are of course completely different from Twenty20 crowds and 50-over crowds. So the 3 versions of the game cater to very different markets. In that case, there'd be no problem. The analogy from marketing is that a potential buyer of luxury cars (Audi, BMW, Mercedes) is a very different market to the buyer of a student car (Opel Corsa, Golf, Toyota etc). And so competition is relatively low, because they are competing for different markets.

Whether this is exactly the case is debatable, I suppose. Twenty20 is so new that it's impossible to tell whether it will gradually alter the demographics of the average cricket fan. In other words, the current Test match enthusiast is someone who grew up without Twenty20 cricket. In 15 years time, will the fan who has grown up on Twenty20 take to tests in the same way? I'm not sure...I'd like to think that the tradition, strategy and skill (more than just technical) aspects of tests will appeal to a crowd that will not be too easily influenced by the crash-bang-wallop of Twenty20 cricket. As one fan has written "I think there are still more than enough fans who prefer a Kallis cover drive to a Symonds slog over cow corner". This spectator will always admire the subtleties of test cricket.

The influence of the sub-continent on the future of the game

But the one thing that no one has really considered is the influence of the sub-continent on the future of the game. Becaus like it or not, the sub-continent, and particular India, hold cricket in the depths of its wallet, so to speak. Most of the game's money comes from India, and it's no co-incidence that all the ICC sponsors are companies that have major presence in India. TV rights are worth much more when India plays than any other country.

In fact, so dominant is the Indian presence of the game, that the country with the second most cricket viewers in the world is the USA - made up of Indian immigrants on the eastern seabord! But Twenty20 cricket was born in England and South Africa, and though it's played in India, it hasn't quite caught on there. If it does, however, then suddenly the money that might be thrown at it would certainly threaten the 50-over game at least. Indeed, this is already threatening to happen, with the much spoken about 'rebel' league that got Andrew Hall into the headlines recently. The bottom line, if you'll pardon the pun, is the bottom line and if Twenty20 cricket seems more attractive to the bottom line in India, then the ICC might struggle to contain it.

I'm sure there's a great deal of discussion still to be had on this issue. And ultimately, only time will tell. It will be interesting to see how domestic competitions in India are affected as a result of the 20-over game, and what it does for Test matches. Difficult situation for the ICC though, although as I wrote previously, I believe that Twenty20 presents an opportunity to grow the game. It's just a question of strategy.



David said...

Well put. We can only guess to the future, but so far Twenty20 has been all positive for the game. Bigger domestic crowd, innovative play and a positive influence on run rates in the longer forms.