At a time when the sport is seeking to drive out the scourge of racism, this breaking down of barriers seems particularly important, with players from different cultures and backgrounds coming together in a way – and with a frequency – previously unthinkable.
Time was when player X would only come across player Y when their countries convened in international combat every few years. Now they are as likely to find themselves striding out to bat together in a T20 competition somewhere as they are to regard each other from opposite sides of the fence – perhaps in an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion, given that international cricket is not, as Australia’s Allan Border famously remarked when Robin Smith had the temerity to ask for a glass of water during an Ashes Test, “a f***ing tea party”.
Lockie Ferguson, the New Zealand fast bowler who is Yorkshire’s overseas player for the T20 Blast, touched on this benefit to the growth in T20 domestic/franchise cricket during an interview last week.
I suggested to Ferguson that it must be nice to have Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and, hopefully, Joe Root in the same dressing room after Yorkshire’s World Cup-winning trio had helped to inflict on him and New Zealand their crushing disappointment in the Lord’s final of 2019.
He replied: “The coolest part about playing T20 comps around the world is, yes, of course as international cricketers we play for our country and it’s all very competitive, but quite easily the next month or the next year you could be playing alongside the same guys you just played against.
“Of course there will be great opportunities (at Yorkshire) to learn about the game, but just as importantly to share a few stories over a beer or two with those lads (from the World Cup final) to see how they saw that game, how you saw it, to hear how they acted after it happened, the celebrations and the like.”
In other words, opportunities for fellowship and camaraderie.
That is not to say that anyone is kidding themselves. The ambition to fully eradicate racism from our world is as fanciful as trying to fully eradicate the tendency of human beings to start wars and go around killing each other. This will never be a perfect planet – at least for as long as its dominant species is homo sapiens.
It will take time to fully see the benefit of this increased intermingling of cricketers, with those entering the sport now coming into one that is vastly different since T20 began.
But it can only help to demystify the various cultures and cultural differences that might once have attracted what are now increasingly unacceptable attitudes and conduct.
T20 is not my preferred cup of Yorkshire tea – there are times when I would rather stick my head in the oven than face another drive down the M1 on a Friday afternoon to Wantage Road – but its benefits in this case cannot be understated.
A sport where players are foes one minute and then team-mates the next is at least a sport that has the best opportunity to develop a more tolerant and inclusive approach going forward.