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With T20 World Cup in US, crowd-friendly format is ready to take a giant leap | Cricket News – Times of India



It was 2009 and T20 cricket was trying to find its feet. There was still an element of doubt attached to the format but the stakes were slowly becoming higher, with India having already won the World T20 in 2007 and the first edition of the IPL having become a huge success.
The second season of the IPL had to be organized in South Africa because the general elections in India were on, but what was astonishing was the sheer number of spectators at every ground.Be it Newlands, St George’s Park, Wanderers or Kingsmead — virtually every game of an Indian domestic competition was a sell-out. The crowds were not just Indians and Pakistanis living in South Africa.

ALSO SEE: T20 World Cup Schedule

It was during that IPL that Aussie great Matthew Hayden made a prediction while chatting with TOI.
“This is just the start. See how this format grows. In 10 years’ time, I see T20 cricket as part of the Olympics and the crowds in the United States lapping it up. If cricket has to go global, it has to have a market in the US and T20 is the only answer for that,” Hayden had said.
It has taken a little more than a decade for Hayden’s words to come true. Now, T20 is truly on the doorstep of a global boom. With the Indian cricket board (BCCI) backing off from its “no to Olympics” stand, world body ICC was able to push the sport into the Los Angeles roster for 2028.

Before that, the format faces its first test when 16 matches of the first phase of the T20 World Cup, including the marquee India-Pakistan clash, gets under way in the US.
“The demand for tickets for the India-Pakistan game (being played in the Nassau County ground, 35 kms east of Manhattan) is phenomenal. It will be a blockbuster game and cricket in the US truly needs a match like this,” US Cricket chairman Venu Pisike told TOI.
Pisike made an interestingpoint when he said that for US audiences — beyond the subcontinental diaspora — to love cricket, it has to be “high intensity”.
It is precisely this search for ‘high intensity’ that has seen the format going through incredible evolution over the years. The first T20 final on a Wanderers batting beauty was won with 157 runs on the board. One can rest assured that at the same ground on a similar pitch in 2024, 157 would be chased down in 15 overs.

The pitches have got more and more batting friendly, power-hitting has become the most important ingredient of cricket, and two new rows in the statistics columns have become most telling — strike rate for batters and economy-rate for bowlers. No one cares about averages anymore. A six-ball 20 carries more weight than a 40-ball 50 in today’s T20.
Such is the paradigm shift that Sunil Gavaskar, the high-priest of orthodox cricket, doesn’t mind having a go at Virat Kohli for maintaining a strike-rate of 150, promptly inviting troll armies questioning the batting credentials of the original ‘Little Master’.
Run feast probably reached its peak in this year’s IPL with eight 250-plus scores being registered and 261 being chased down by back-benchers Punjab Kings against champions Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens. Before this IPL, the 250-barrier had been broken twice, and the obvious question that surfaced was whether we would see this batting monstrosity carry on in the World Cup as well.

The curator for the Nassau County ground has promised a batting beauty and with India taking on Ireland, Pakistan and USA at this venue, we may just see six-hitting mayhem extending through the first couple of weeks of the T20 World Cup.
But there’s an interesting catch to this narrative. For India, the business end of this World Cup — Super 8s, semis and final — shifts to the West Indies where the pitches, over the last few years, haven’t exactly been conducive for slambang action. Also, gone are the days of Sabina Park green-tops and a West Indian pace quartet breathing fire.
Jamaica in fact, doesn’t figure in the list of six West Indian venues. This is the age of Sunil Narine (though he doesn’t play for West Indies anymore), and pitches are expected to be slow, with spinners coming into play. All of India’s matches are day-games as well, which will mean that there will be no dew, leaving the spinners Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav at their most potent.

Bowlers, though, don’t mind this dam to the run-deluge, especially after getting hammered for the last two months. Australian paceman Mitchell Starc, who won KKR the IPL with two match-winning spells in Qualifier 1 and final, said: “The impact player rule won’t be there, which would mean that a batting allrounder won’t walk in at No. 8 or 9 and you may not get to see 270-80 scores too often. And the pitches may have a say in the Windies, with bowlers having a bigger role and spinners being more threatening.”
But then, modern T20 has made the batters more brave, conditions do not always stop them from going about their gig. Starc definitely can’t vouch for his countrymates Travis Head or Glenn Maxwell to slow down just because the ball is stopping a bit.
And for us, it’s about finding the best spot on the couch every evening for one more month.

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