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Cricket
The growing profile of Twenty20
Twenty20 cricket only made its international debut in 2005 but has already brought viewers and glamour to the game.
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2012 18:59
West Indian Chris Gayle has made his name for himself in Twenty20 with success in the Indian Premier League [AFP]

Watching Chris Gayle casually hit the ball out of the ground and into the path of unsuspecting Colombo traffic is a reminder of just how easy the best can make sport look.

The West Indies were loosening up their World Cup hitting swings in a warm-up match against Afghanistan. Gayle's swing looked looser than most. I remember him once arriving at a news conference with an appeal for the questions to be kept "short and spicy." This is not a man who likes wasting time. T20's "short and spicy" format is perfect for him.

It is easy to forget that T20 only made its international debut in 2005.

Traditionally cricket is a sport where games last for days. Suddenly a bite-size three hour alternative was on the table and the world wolfed it down. And then the Indian Premier League arrived, offering players previously unthinkable piles of cash.

I was at the very first IPL game back in 2008. Against a backdrop of fireworks and back-flipping cheerleaders I saw Brendon McCullum smash 158 in the time it might take a Test batsman to hit double figures. Cricket has never quite been the same since.

The sport's world governing body had been quick to see the potential.

They organised the first T20 World Cup in 2007 and made sure the IPL stayed within their jurisdiction and did not become a rogue cricketing outpost. But much was changing that was beyond their control. As T20 leagues emerged around the world, so too did the possibility of playing careers that did not involve your country.

Gayle is not the only player who appears ready to blast a franchise six on demand but can be slightly more elusive when it comes to making himself available for the West Indies.

Bolt and Blake

Australia's Big Bash competition could provide the next big test for T20. Namely that of its credibility. The news that Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake might be in the running to appear makes for great publicity but raises questions far beyond just how quick a quick single could be. If they do show up (and it is a big if) at what point does a sporting contest cross over into showbusiness?

How exactly would history regard a Chris Gayle six hit off a Usain Bolt bouncer? And more generally, how will a T20 specialist be remembered within the ranks of cricket's greats?

Test cricket is still viewed by the majority of players and the ICC as the high water mark of the sport.

Test matches date back to the nineteenth century, their longevity has been proven. But at its best T20 has much to offer.

It is the form of the game which has opened up cricket to a new audience and provided teams likes Afghanistan with the platform to take on the world's best. It has also pushed players to innovate and entertain like never before, as games swing on the swish of a switch-hit or the deceit of a slow bouncer.

But just how much or how little T20 we will be seeing in the future is hard to second guess.

This World Cup is the latest chance for T20 to prove its value as a business and a sport.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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