WHEN Twenty20 cricket was first introduced I remember being critical of a nine-over thrash in which Yorkshire were involved, the match having been reduced by rain to nine overs per side.
I remember writing something along the lines of “a more enjoyable evening would have been spent cutting one’s toenails or cleaning the bathroom”, the occasion redeemed only by the provision of the now sadly defunct Headingley hot tub.
I remember also that Stewart Regan, the then Yorkshire chief executive, wrote a letter to The Yorkshire Post in response urging me to “wake up and smell the coffee” as far as T20 was concerned.
More than a decade on, the old nasal cavities are still somewhat blocked, if truth be told, although I have grown to tolerate – I can’t quite bring myself to say “enjoy” – English cricket’s shortest format.
I say English cricket’s shortest format, but, of course, that is no longer the case after the England and Wales Cricket Board two days ago decided to roll out the concept of “100-ball cricket”.
This latest ruse, to be used in the new city-based T20 tournament that starts in this country in 2020, will comprise games featuring 100 balls per side, with teams bowling 15 standard six-ball overs followed by a final over of 10 deliveries.
Why abandon a T20 concept that is the most financially lucrative that the sport has known and replace it with a gimmicky imitation designed to appeal to families and kids – a patronising idea in itself ...Chris Waters.
According to Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, “this is a fresh and exciting idea which will appeal to a younger audience and attract new fans to the game”.
According to Sanjay Patel, the ECB chief commercial officer and managing director for the new competition, “based on 15 traditional overs, the other 10 balls will add a fresh tactical dimension”, which sounds a bit like political spin gone into overdrive.
Although experience cautions against rash conclusions, with the grudging admission that cutting one’s toenails is perhaps not quite as exciting as T20 after all, there seems little to like about this latest plan.
In the first instance, why abandon a T20 concept that is the most financially lucrative that the sport has known and replace it with a gimmicky imitation designed to appeal to families and kids – a patronising idea in itself, in my view?
The answer, of course, is to try to distinguish the competition from the existing T20 Blast and to give it a different/unique selling point.
For, despite having a monopoly on T20 in its early days, English cricket has been left for dead by the Indian Premier League and the Australian Big Bash, with this smacking of a somewhat desperate attempt to play catch-up.
Of course, it is easy to be critical, but will the world’s top players really want to take part in this hybrid version of a hybrid format? Only time will tell.
And what is going to happen to the longer format of the game, which is being killed by a schedule increasingly weighted towards short-form cricket?
In the final analysis, it all comes down to money/broadcasting cash at the expense of the only thing that really matters – the cricket.
To judge by the negative reaction of a good many cricket fans, including those who long ago woke up and smelled the T20 coffee and enjoy the aroma, their opinions are not nearly as valid as those belonging to people who are being persuaded – pretty please – to give cricket a try.