Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 18 News List

International cricket enters new era


International cricket enters a new era of short, sharp entertainment in a week from tomorrow when the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship takes place in South Africa.

Innovative strokeplay and a flurry of sixes and boundaries is the name of the 20-overs-a-side game designed for those looking for excitement, but who don't have the time or patience to sit through an entire day's cricket.

Twenty20 matches provide instant gratification, lasting three hours as compared to seven hours for a one day game, and draw big crowds even as purists frown at the hit-and-giggle exercise.

The International Cricket Council, sensing a windfall, agreed to start a World Championship just two years after Australia and New Zealand played the first ever Twenty20 international in February 2005.

The two-week event, to be held in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban from Sept. 11 to Sept. 24, features the nine nations currently playing Test cricket along with Zimbabwe, Kenya and Scotland.

Barring England and South Africa, who organize regular domestic Twenty20 competitions, the other 10 teams are relative novices at the newest form of the game.

While England have played six Twenty20 internationals, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have each taken part in five, Sri Lanka and the West Indies in three and Pakistan in two.

India, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have just one match each to their credit, prompting many to wonder if the ICC had acted in haste to organize a World Championship so soon.

Top stars like West Indian captain Ramnaresh Sarwan and veteran South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher have publicly acknowledged that the tournament did not enthuse them enough.

"The Twenty20 form is not really my liking," Sarwan said. "I am one for the longer version of the sport. But having said that, I am fully aware of the amount of entertainment this form of the game brings to the fans."

India, the sport's financial powerhouse who reluctantly embraced Twenty20, chose to rest its senior-most pros Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan.

However, powerful Australia are desperate to add another trophy in their overflowing cupboard, just five months after they won their third successive World Cup title.

Ricky Ponting's squad will be bolstered by the return of fast bowler Brett Lee who missed the World Cup because of an injury.

If experience alone mattered, England, New Zealand and hosts South Africa will be favorites to finally win a major title after being the only ones among the top eight not to have lifted the World Cup.

As cricket ventures into the unknown, the only thing predictable is that fans will love it. Something that could not be said about the World Cup earlier this year.

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