The symmetry is beautiful.
In just under 20 years, Twenty20 cricket has gone from being an easy-going side show to a money-spinning, central plank in the sport’s global calendar.
As the seventh T20 World Cup kicks off in Oman and the UAE on Sunday, AFP Sport looks at the rise and rise of the game’s magnificent, crowd-pleasing format.
The ICC T20 Cricket World Cup starts on October 17th and you can catch the first round on us with Kayo Freebies. Get the game started at kayosports.com.au/freebies
— The beginning —
The end of the Benson and Hedges Cup one-day competition due to a ban on tobacco advertising in 2002 left a gap in the English cricket domestic calendar.
Stuart Robertson, marketing manager for the England and Wales Cricket Board, proposed a 20-overs-per-side event, a format already known in amateur and junior cricket.
The goal was to attract a younger audience who may not have had time to interact with longer formats.
The first official Twenty20 county matches took place in 2003 and proved to be an instant success in terms of attracting crowds.
More than 27,000 turned up to watch Middlesex play Surrey at Lord’s – the largest attendance at any county’s cricket home game outside of a one-day final since 1953.
That success was noticed elsewhere, with the insane pace and in particular, the dynamic beat of the batsmen that proved popular with spectators around the world.
Still, there was still a feeling that this was not ‘proper cricket’.
-The international game-
The first international T20 match between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, Auckland, in 2005 saw both teams in retro 1980s sets, where New Zealand was adorned in an exact replica of their ‘Beige Brigade’ colors from that era.
Some players even wore fake beards and mustaches in honor of the styles of the time.
“I think it’s hard to play seriously,” said Australia’s Ricky Ponting, the man of the match.
But the format’s growing popularity was noted by the International Cricket Council and led to the initial T20 World Cup for men in 2007 in South Africa, where India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in an exciting final.
Just as India’s victory in the 1983 Man’s End-of-World Cup had changed the attitude of cricket’s most populous nation to the game limited overs, so this success was just as transformative in the sport’s economic powerhouse nation.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, wanting to capitalize on this success and concerned about the Indian Cricket League, a private T20 event, launched the Indian Premier League in 2008.
Not only did this move effectively put an end to the ICL, the new six-week tournament changed cricket’s global environment, especially the power relationship between national boards and players.
The city-based IPL, where teams were bankrolled by wealthy private owners, with teams based on player auctions, meant that leading cricketers could earn huge sums in a short amount of time.
Traditionally, the path to a lucrative career was to become an established international in test cricket for several days and benefit from the subsequent sponsorship agreements.
Now, however, there was another route where the creation of other leagues like Australia’s Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League created a global T20 circuit.
When the IPL started, it collided with international matches and then England captain Kevin Pietersen found himself involved in ranks with the then team management over his desire to play in the new event.
As the gifted batsman recalled in a tweet in May: “When I went up against ENG, I was alone. This time it’s all their best brand players! ”
— The future —
The IPL has changed the game as the ICC has effectively ruled out international men’s matches during the usual April-May timeframe for the tournament to ensure top-class cricketers remain available.
Now there is a turbulent coexistence between the formats, with the ICC creating the world championship in test-New Zealand won this year’s preliminary edition-in an attempt to strengthen the five-day game and Virat Kohli, captain of the beaten finalists India, proclaimed in August: “ For me, this is the absolute highlight of the game. I will give everything to Test cricket for the time I play, I can assure you. ”
But how long Kohli’s position lasts across cricket remains to be seen.