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A new identity for T20 cricket

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Number_one_Best_Greatest_cricketGrowing up as the youngest sibling isn’t always easy. You generally get hand-me-downs, have to do as you’re told, seldom get taken seriously and generally follow the path of your older siblings.

In the beginning, that is what T20 cricket had to put up with, but the cheeky little sprog has been able to get away with a lot more mischief than its ODI and Test brothers. It has travelled extensively, made some rather dubious fashion choices, acquired some dodgy friends, but all things considered, it has somehow managed to reach adulthood.

So, as it now stands as someone that can fend for itself as an individual, what is the next step?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

 

Though part of the same family as ODI and Test cricket, T20 should be considered a different entity. It’s evolving faster, it’s taking the game to new frontiers and, most importantly, it is adding previously unseen dimensions to the sport.

Like any other bright young prospect though, it needs a plan of action for the future. The various leagues around the world need to be smart and pragmatic in how they evolve, and above all else, the standard of competition always needs to be really high in order to maintain attention and appeal.

What T20 really needs is an appropriate pinnacle to work towards and a way to package things, which isn’t a copy of what the ODI game does.

No, for T20 to stay special, for it to continue to attract new fans to the game and be true to itself at all levels, it needs to box a little smarter than just following the path of the ODI game.

It needs a big flashy All-Star Game as its ‘pinnacle’.

American sports have been around for so long; they have made huge amounts of money, and captivated millions in the process. We can certainly learn from their ways, and T20 is already on their path to commercial success and sustainable fanfare.

Instead of having a T20 Cricket World Cup once every couple of years, where the national teams get together and play a shortened version of the ODI World Cup, there could be an annual North vs South ‘All-Star Game’ that is played sometime after the IPL.

This isn’t another version of the Champions League, which ultimately failed. We are talking about a 3 match series that sees the best T20 cricketers in the world going head to head.

The teams should be made of the two hemispheres, so they would look like this:

North Team: England, Ireland, Scotland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan

South Team: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies

A former panel of greats from each region would be team selectors, so you would have big names like Ian Botham and Wasim Akram in charge of the North Team, and people like Steve Waugh and Allan Donald in charge of the South team.

A squad of 15 players in each team, with a 3 match series making up the big showdown.

It’s a no-brainer, as it really can justify being an annual thing. As it will be way shorter than a T20 World Cup, with strength versus strength from the start, all eyes will be on it throughout.

What an honour for a T20 player to be an ‘All-Star’, and for T20 cricket to have something with such global appeal that isn’t long winded and complicated.

 

With the ‘All-Star’ game in place, T20 can really have its own image and personality. Not only will this safeguard the future of the format and allow it to grow as it should, but also give added integrity to the ODI game as it will be the only format having a World Cup.

Test cricket can just carry on being Test cricket, it’s great like that.

The pros of this totally outweigh the cons, but one negative would be that a T20 Cricket World Cup provides emerging nations a chance to play top level international cricket.

Well, this is where the ICC needs to step in, and once and for all embrace these nations. With added revenue from the All Star games, more lower-level tournaments can take place, and naturally the ODI World Cup, now cricket’s only World Cup, can be made accessible enough for all nations to get the chance to qualify.

T20 may not be everyone’s favourite, but it is a huge part of the future of the game. Many think that it being part of the future would be at the expense of the other formats, but I don’t think that needs to be the case.

Let it flourish, let it define and continue to craft its own identity, and everyone will benefit.

Some players will always strive to be T20 players for the money, and that is fine. More than enough will still play Test Cricket and want to be World Cup winners, and cross pollination will occur.

The time of being skeptical of T20 is over. The more it is allowed to beat its own path, the better the cricket family will be as a whole.

 


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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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