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Why The Subcontinent Doesn’t Like Twenty20

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Twenty20 is a new form of cricket creating waves in the cricketing world.

A few months ago, Jagmohan Dalmiya made the point on Sportcentre India that this form of cricket is not in the agenda of India for the near future. The Reason? As its 40 percent of a limited overs match (in terms of overs and time involved), it results in 40 percent of income.

Tim de Lisle points out in cricinfo why a Twenty20 World Cup is the logical step forward:

It is the first professional cricket format to fit into the lives of people who have a job or a school to go to. A typical game starts at 5.30pm and is over by 8pm. For the first time, you can see a whole match without a meal break. Ergo, it attracts people who wouldn’t normally have the time.

Perfect for nations where cricket is merely a sport. In the subcontinent, however, cricket is more than just sport. So matches will be played to packed houses, revenues will come in despite the period of the match. Interest will not recede. In simple economic terms, the demand is inelastic.

The people who head the BCCI have changed. But the stance remains the same in this regard. Sharad Pawar has said:

The working committee of the board unanimously decided not to participate in that for a lot of reasons. The BCCI decided that it was not in the interest of the game.

Limited overs cricket is the duck which lays the golden eggs. No one wants to tamper with it. Virtually every one has at least heard of cricket in the subcontinent and who ever can be drawn to it has been sucked in. A pro-Twenty20 attitude can, however, lead to audiences in the subcontinent finally realizing that the limited overs game is mundane and repetitive. Add to it the attraction a new product, in this case, “the Twenty20 game” will have and lead to a lot of attention, there is a real chance of a portion of the audience shifting allegiance.

There is genuine fear among the brasses which rule cricket in the subcontinent. Twenty20 cricket was marketed and shown with international standard broadcasting last year in Pakistan. Like in England, it drew record domestic crowds. Matches were played to packed houses. This year, Pakistan has continued with the successful experiment domestically. However, PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan has opposed Twenty20 for international cricket. Even The Bangladesh Cricket Board is expected to take the same stance. As India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are likely to bid jointly for the 2011 World Cup, their official view on this matter is unlikely to be different.

Different markets have different interests. We have to understand and then ask the real question though – Is the interest of cricket being affected in all this? Is the game of cricket really so weak that a new version will hamper future sources of income? Test cricket has survived nearly 130 years.

If limited overs cricket is good enough in itself, it will hold its own. If it is not, it would have served its purpose. Open economies should prevail and Twenty20 should be allowed free existence and chance to capture whatever market it can. Sadly, the power games will not recede any time in the future and cricket will continue to suffer.

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About Pratyush Khaitan