Source | India Today Dec 24, 2018
There were only Test matches once. Then came One-Day Internationals (ODIs) of 60 overs each, which got reduced to 50 overs (the form that we see it in today). After several decades of one-day cricket, came another format which captured the imagination of the cricket globe – T20!
The ICC World T20, the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League – T20 cricket is hot property today.
And now, nearly 11 years after the first edition of IPL took cricket by storm, comes the T10 format.
Just 10 overs of cricket for each team – it does not sound too appealing, I mean how much of cricket are you actually going to even see in that less time? But isn’t this what everybody thought of T20 back in time.
T10 has the same ingredients as T20 cricket – Imagine this! 6 fours. 8 sixes. 16 balls. 74 runs – this is how Afghanistan wicket-keeper Mohammad Shahzad gave a fiery start to the second edition of the T20 league in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Who can now say that T10 will never catch up and won’t find takers?
TERBULENT TAKE OFF…
“You can take it to the moon, to the Amazon jungles,” Rameez Raja tells T10 league CEO, Colonel Arvinder Singh in commentary in typical self-aggrandizement of the league. Col. Singh signs off with a sheepish thank you.
Singh, who has previously served as CEO of Kings X1 Punjab and Gujarat Lions in the IPL, knows that things were not so rosy only a month ago. He took over the T10 league responsibilities in October with the credibility of the experimental 10 overs league at stake following resignation of some management members and then title sponsors under investigation for Ponzi schemes.
Riding on the back of ICC sanction, insiders who flirted with the idea of a four-day T10 league last year say, it turned out to be nothing better than a celebrity league. One account says there was also an instance when the team that reached the ground early was allowed to play before the scheduled match, with the other teams waiting for their turn.
“There were a lot of things that did not appear in line with how they should be in a professional league. We have now tried to change a lot of them this time,” Col. Singh says.
This second edition of the 12-day league worked under structures including the supervision of the ICC anti-corruption unit and attracted participation from some of the best T20 cricketers around the world. A lot of established power hitters from Shahid Afridi to Chris Gayle and Alex Hales did their gig.
NEW BALLS PLEASE…
‘New balls please’ most commonly heard at Wimbledon, came into fashion in cricket too. Two or three balls a day being dispatched out of the Sharjah cricket stadium became so common, Danny Morrison had a field day with the mike. Michael Slater who has now switched to India-Australia Test commentary was giving Morrison a complex in Sharjah, screaming out as loud as he could. In a format where runs, wickets, nothing seemed in excess, the commentators too choose to use hyperbole liberally.
Morrison and Rameez Raja later switched to New Zealand vs Pakistan Test broadcast, unsurprisingly watched by a few hundred spectators. But even the T10 league took time for spectators to warm up to the action. In the first week, the slam dam cricket buzz was nowhere enough to fill the 15,000 capacity Sharjah cricket stadium.
By the second week of the 12-day league though, there were packed houses as the popular Pakhtoon franchise led by Shahid Afridi, a big draw with the Emirates based Pakistani crowd, got going.
T10 ENHANCES T20 SKILLS…
Easy to dismiss and fashionable to malign, T10 is yet to be taken seriously by pundits and seasoned cricket viewers. Some who have just begun to live with and enjoy T20 action, more than a decade after its inception, fail to buy the radical 10 overs concept. “It’s a valid question. But that’s what people said about T20 cricket too. I have been with IPL for all these years and I can tell you that people don’t have time any more. I was speaking to some players and they were saying, T20 cricket too becomes predictable between 7th and 16th over. All the IPL stars are playing here,” the league CEO says.
Former Australian all rounder Shane Watson argues 10 overs action will help cricketers enhance their T20 skills. “Every ball is an event from bowling point of view. As a batsman too, you can’t get your eye in. It’s a great challenge and it’s only going to improve T20 skills because people realize what’s really possible now,” he observes.
The obvious argument also going for T10 is its length. 10 overs a side packaged over a period of 90 minutes a’ la football is seen by many as cricket’s window to Olympics. Former India pacer Zaheer Khan who too rolled his arm over advocates this school of thought. “With only 10 overs, there is that much less time and more pressure on batsmen to go quicker and bowler to innovate. You can create pressure on opposition by only having one or two big players in the side too. It’s a very fast format and if you want to globalise the sport, T10 can be most useful,” he opines.
It’s unusual for a bowler to back a format that leaves no room for seam, swing and reverse swing. But Zaheer argues, a good bowler will still find a way. “You have to find the right mindset to create an impact even in this format. A good bowler will always have value,” he says.
Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy makes a telling statement why bowlers should stay engaged. “Batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments. That’s true of T10 as well,” he says.
One of the tricks that T10 encourages and is already best employed by smart T20 captains is match ups; of using the right batsmen against weak bowlers and vice versa. In the T10 league for instance, in form batsmen like Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow often took advantage against retired or off-colour bowlers.
CAN T10 EAT INTO ODI PIE?
The most seasoned of IPL coaches Stephan Fleming and Daniel Vettori worked as coaches in the league and took notes. “Stephan Fleming was telling me 10 overs cricket may not affect Test cricket but might affect ODI cricket over a period of time,” former India physio John Gloster said.
Fleming’s views hold strength. With the history and character of Test cricket so well defined, result oriented Test contests still find takers. A lot of cricketers who have played T10 cricket say it will boost T20 cricket skills. But with even multiple rule changes failing to keep viewers engaged through a 50-overs contest, ODI games could come under pressure if T10 takes root.
Many bowlers are not enjoying the 10 overs blitz though. With a maximum of 2 overs to bowl against batsmen in overdrive mode, the long acquired skills of setting up a wicket become ill-suited to the format.
Former India pacer RP Singh shares the bowlers’s sentiment. “I remember when someone hit you for a six in Test cricket, you would remember it for the rest of the year. Here you are hit for a six off the first ball so there is an acceptance that people come for entertainment. If you are hit for 20 runs in an over; as a bowler you think… at least I didn’t go for 25.”
SUSCEPTIBLE TO CORRUPTION
Five years back the biggest blot on the most successful IPL brand was the spot-fixing scandal that eventually saw BCCI administration being handed over to court-appointed administrators.
With short format leagues easy prey for trouble makers, T10 cricket played in UAE with its tainted history could be susceptible.
Speaking about the anti-corruption measures adopted during the competition, chairman of T10 league Shaji-ul Mulk said, “We outsourced the entire ICC anti-corruption unit and there was a ICC integrity officer with each team. We want to make it a league where corruption can be checked at every step.”
One instance of a corrupt approach from an outsider to a member of a franchise support staff did take place during the league. It was reported on time and handled by the anti-corruption unit.