It’s time Australia started taking Twenty20 cricket seriously. We begin our ICC World Twenty20 campaign this week ranked ninth, wedged between Bangladesh and Ireland on the official ICC rankings. We meet Ireland first up and they could very well beat us.

Australian players Matt Wade and Shane Watson watch Kiwi Nathan McCullum closely to see if they can pick up a much-needed T20 tip or two

It has become nothing short of treasonous in recent years to admit you enjoy watching T20 cricket, let alone to suggest that Australia should dedicate more resources to the super-abbreviated form of the game. But that’s exactly what we should do. T20 cricket at the international level should be given more primacy, more credence and more money.

At the moment, T20 is an ever-growing cash cow for Cricket Australia. But the domestic Big Bash league gets all the marketing money, while the national team is almost an afterthought. The T20 squad’s two week camp in the lead-up to this major ICC-sanctioned tournament was the first time we’ve ever had a proper build-up to a major T20 tournament. No wonder we’re easybeats at international level.

The stats tell the story. Australia has won just 26 of its 52 T20 internationals, a meagre success rate of 50 per cent for a great cricket power.

By contrast, we have won 493 of our 801 One-Dayers (62 per cent) and 350 of our 744 tests (47 per cent), a brilliant strike rate given Tests have three possible results.

In general, T20 games are tacked on to tours as an afterthought. You can almost hear the administrators saying “OK, we’re done with the serious stuff, now let’s play one or two of these silly games”.

T20 internationals in Australia still often have mic’d up players and other silly add-ons which suggest nobody is taking the game very seriously. Hey, no one ever said it should feel like a funeral. Point is, we should keep the carnival atmosphere without turning the players into circus clowns.

The stuffier cricket fans and commentators among us – and it’s amazing how many of them are under 40 – will tell you that T20 is all slather and whack. That it has no real skill. That it’s a toss of the coin, a frolic, a diversion and a slap in the face to Test cricket, the so-called “real” cricket.

No. Test cricket is Test cricket, and is duly sanctified by all who truly understand the game. But both forms are valid, and both forms, like it or not, are now important, not least because T20 has become the financial engine of the game. As evidence, the last TV rights deal for the Champions League (which pits the winners of various national T20 leagues against each other) was in excess of $1 billion.

As much as I’d like to extol the virtues of T20 cricket myself, I could not be half as eloquent as David Hopps writing yesterday on the world’s leading cricket website espncricinfo.com. Previewing the World Twenty20, Hopps wrote:

“The best teams refuse to accept that the result of a Twenty20 game is largely random, and convince themselves that, more often than not, skill, instinct and ingenuity can win through. Twenty20 is no longer played half-heartedly by insecure professionals unable to suppress the belief that they were somehow demeaning themselves, but by sharp-witted cricketers awash with adventure and imagination. Twenty20, like Test cricket, is also a game of the mind - it is just a mind retuned to the need to second-guess opponents in a game where risk is not minimised but embraced.”

Bam! This bloke has nailed it. I feel like printing this out and keeping it in my wallet so I can break it out every time someone tells me T20 is rubbish. As Hopps wrote, Twenty20 cricket is skilful stuff and that’s why it deserves to be taken seriously.

Other nations do. You only had to watch last week’s T20 series between South Africa and England to see how far we’ve fallen behind. Some bloke from England called Jos Buttler hit 32 runs from one over featuring a combination of cheeky scoops and straight power hitting the likes of which few Australian fans have ever seen.

Both the England and South African teams had three or four familiar names, but the rest were T20 specialists who will likely never wear white in international cricket. By contrast, Australia still has a predominance of players who play one or both of the longer forms of the game. Everyone apart from Michael Clarke is technically still in the equation.

We have to change this. T20 cricket has to be treated as a specialist form of the game. If the Big Bash is going to be a circus awash with Jamaican sprinters and Shane Warne’s Twitter buddies, we should develop a proper domestic T20 league which lasts the whole season long.

That league could blood players for future international duties, just as the Sheffield Shield has long done for Test players, and the domestic One Day Cup has done for the national 50 over team. The difference is, tomorrow’s T20 superstars will play that game and that game only.

Sure, there might be the occasional Dave Warner who breaks through to the longer forms, but the point is, it won’t be a stigma to be labelled a “T20 specialist” the way, say, Sevens rugby players are looked down upon by their 15-a-side counterparts.

And here’s the best part. Our administrators will be so awash with money, they’ll be able to funnel that cash not just into making our national T20 team world beaters, but straight back into the Test nursery of the Sheffield Shield. Because god knows, bums on seats at the Sheffield Shield ain’t going to fund its existence.

We might even consider decking out our national T20 team out in a new piece of headwear to rival the baggy green. A striped baggy green-and-gold, perhaps?

@antsharwood

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    • Little Joe says:

      06:49am | 19/09/12

      Anthony .... it’s not a game ..... it’s a circus!!!

      A pretentious spectacle for lining the pockets of once great test cricket players, allowing them to prolong their career while filling the coffers of media millionaires.

      A pathetic spectacle for a new age numbed society that do not have the ability to watch a complete over without the 21st Century electronic umbilical linking their brain to their new electronic mother that tells them how to think, react, respond, feel, interpret, .....

      Sport ..... simply a diversion from the realities and responsibilities of our lives. It’s just entertainment. Who cares how well we perform at the lowest form of a once great game??

    • gobsmack says:

      07:21am | 19/09/12

      T20 is a godsend for the fringe cricketers who lack the technique, stamina or patience to play Test cricket.

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:10am | 19/09/12

      Except for David Warner, who is now dominating all forms of the game?

    • gobsmack says:

      09:09am | 19/09/12

      Yes there are exceptions.

    • esteban says:

      12:35pm | 19/09/12

      Let us reserve our assessment of Warner until he has played a test series on seaming English wickets.

      It is all very well to be able to pull and straight hit for 6 on a fast and true bounce wicket but can he modify his batting to nudge and deflect during the more difficult English conditions?

      The ashes is next year and based on the way we played in admittedly poor weatrher affected conditions recently in England I would say that some players have got a bit of learning to do before next year.Warner amongst them.

    • Alfie says:

      07:22am | 19/09/12

      Cricket makes boredom seem like an exciting prospect.

    • Gordon says:

      10:42am | 19/09/12

      If you need to have it explained you wouldn’t understand.

    • thatmosis says:

      08:01am | 19/09/12

      T20 is not a game but a hit and giggle spectacle to placate the uneducated masses. No real cricket fan would ever admit to watching this crap and would only just tolerate the 50/50 game. The only real cricket is the 5 day game and that’s what we should concentrate on not this farce.

    • scott says:

      01:19pm | 19/09/12

      I refuse to watch any sport where two teams can play for five days and still can’t declare a winner.

    • Fez says:

      08:01am | 19/09/12

      20/20 makes about as much sense as calling the final siren on an AFL game after 30 seconds of play.

      Its brainless, moronic and capricious. If we take it seriously, what does that say about it

    • fez says:

      08:03am | 19/09/12

      ‘s advocates” should be on the end of my other post.

    • jimbo says:

      08:05am | 19/09/12

      Please put cricket out of its misery and promote something more exciting and interesting like draughts or lawn bowls.

    • London Calling says:

      10:23am | 19/09/12

      Please ‘someone, anyone’, put jimbo out of his misery and tell him, no one is twisting his arm to make him watch cricket, of any form.

      OK, I’ll do it.

    • wolf says:

      08:06am | 19/09/12

      Ant you do know that the ICC has a limit on the number of T20 games the international teams can play? The cap is 6 home and 6 away games in a calendar year, with a maximum of 3 in a series. Until that changes you will see 5 or more meaningless one day matches tacked on after the test matches, with 2 T20s as an afterthought.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      01:30pm | 19/09/12

      Sorry it took so long to reply. Ware of this yes Wolf. But my understanding is that it’s pretty much a gentlemen’s agreement which can be changed at any time

    • TChong says:

      08:11am | 19/09/12

      20/20 is just as legit as any other part of the game, and no substantial different to a 1 Dayer.  ( the minor rule differences are neither here nor there)
      If ya really luv ya cricket ( and which fair dinkum ,dinki-di, tru blu, )
      doesnt ?
      , then you would see 20/20 like the reserve grade for the 1 dayers , and test teams.

    • iansand says:

      08:35am | 19/09/12

      T20 encourages risk taking.  Risk taking is exciting.

      Test cricket has huge subtlety and fascination, and I love it, but at heart it is a risk averse game.

    • jgm says:

      08:40am | 19/09/12

      Frankly, I find 20/20 incredibly boring. It’s virtually the same match everytime just with different teams.

      Why not play 10/10?

      However, people seem to enjoy it so I have no problem with it being played. As for Australia winning or losing, I canouldn’t care less as long as we win tests and, to a lesser extent 50 Over ODIs.

    • PW says:

      02:43pm | 19/09/12

      “(20/20 is) virtually the same match everytime just with different teams.

      You are right on the money here. In a few years time the Indians will get sick of it.

    • Vids says:

      04:53pm | 19/09/12

      I was about to say ” how come no one has not yet complained that it is all India’s fault that Australia has fallen behind” and there you go PW.

    • esteban says:

      06:27pm | 19/09/12

      Vids. Still smarting over the 5 nil last year?

      If you read the comments above there is no blame to India for Australia’s poor performance at T20 relative to test and ODI.

      There is however a recognition that India is the capital of T20 and if India loses interest in T20 it will not survive.

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:51am | 19/09/12

      In the UK, 40 over cricket (their version of a one-dayer) is dying out, replaced by T20.

      All the pure cricketers in the world can play tests and one-dayers to empty stadiums if they want - gok only knows football does it here every damn weekend in winter.

      There is a difference between playing for the love of the game and playing for money.  T20 makes money.  Lots of money.  I go watch the Hurricanes because I don’t need to take a day off work to go enjoy a few hours of cricket.  I still enjoy test cricket, will watch it, but I don’t pay for it because I don’t have the time to take a week out and watch it.

      Simple stuff.  The reason we don’t take it seriously is we didn’t invent it.  Kerry Packer largely invented (or at least popularised) one-day cricket here, and the ACB still has its undies in knots over the idea that they got one-upped by the Indians.

    • Greg says:

      09:09am | 19/09/12

      That 32 run over was hardly impressive,
      he hit 3 sixes and 2 fours in an 8 ball over, so really it was 30 runs for him plus the 2 no balls.

      Go ask Garfield Sobers about how to score runs off an over.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhLq8j7-ghE
      much better playing proper cricket shots off a 6 ball over on a decent sized ground

    • thatmosis says:

      09:43am | 19/09/12

      Here’s a better idea. take all the T20 teams, put then together in a big arena and let them fight to the death. This would have the same effect as it does now amongst the uneducated and moronic but would have wider appeal.

    • Michael S says:

      10:14am | 19/09/12

      What T20 has done is something that otherwise would have been considered virtually impossible - it’s breathed life into domestic cricket.
      Sheffield Shield and domestic one-day cricket, while important for development, will never attract more than two men and a dog. But there’ll be five-figure crowds to see the BBL games - more than the One-Day Internationals.
      It’s not hard to see why. For the ODIs, you need to take half a day off work, it’s $55 a ticket, the middle overs in each innings aren’t particularly exciting, and you’re surrounded by drunken idiots looking to punch on. But you can go to the Thunder games, catch a whole game after work for $20, it’s constant action and the crowd atmosphere is so much friendlier.

      T20 internationals haven’t really managed to get traction in Australia for some reason (although there were nearly 60,000 at ANZ in February). The general feeling is that T20 is for the franchise circuit, while the longer games are for national teams.

    • Sarah Bath says:

      10:16am | 19/09/12

      Seriously SPORT???  There are far more important issues to discuss in society that will improve humanity.  Lets not forget please that sport is there to ensure the public are distracted from the bigger issues.  Perhaps if less emphasis was placed on televising sport and was replaced with progressive policy discussion then society would be all the happier.

    • Michael S says:

      12:06pm | 19/09/12

      Too much sport is never enough.

    • Jasmine says:

      12:53pm | 19/09/12

      Yes, let’s stop televising sport and replace it with hours or days of “progressive policy discussion” to make us all happy. Good luck with that.

    • iMitchy says:

      10:19am | 19/09/12

      I never liked cricket growing up. Why would I sit inside and watch TV all day when I could be out surfing, playing backyard footy or something else exciting? (Backyard cricket by the way is where we all start, and it is closer to T20 than any other form of cricket).

      That said, I enjoyed watching footy with dad and when I got older I enjoyed it even more with those fun enhancers - beers. Still couldn’t get into cricket.

      Growing up surfing and the only sport I enjoyed watching was NRL, cricket was too slow and too boring. I chanced upon T20 on holiday in QLD when the only other guys around were my father in law and my mother in law’s brother in law…. They were watching cricket while the girls were outside talking about cooking, periods and what have you. So in I went. And it just happened to be Dave Warners debut game and I have been hooked ever since.

      There is a lot of value in a short game - it may not be in the nature or historical culture of the sport but it provides a lot of entertainment to those who prefer a faster paced, more exciting game like football and encourages us to make that cross-over. We live in a time-poor society where we take our entertainment fix when we can get it and many of us simply do not have a day or five to set aside to watch a game of cricket. T20 has its place and in the years to come as traditional cricket fans get older and new fans are born, it may well become the dominant form of cricket - once people learn how to play this variation of the game.

    • Jasmine says:

      12:58pm | 19/09/12

      You probably like all the brightly coloured outfits too, iMitchy wink. And the ra-ra music between overs. Glad to see you getting into some form of cricket at least. As you get older you might find an interest in the longer forms of the game.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      01:32pm | 19/09/12

      Good comment iMitchy. And Jasmine, if he never develops an interest in the longer forms of the game, doesn’t he deserve a world-beating national team to cheer for.

    • iMitchy says:

      03:16pm | 19/09/12

      That I do Ant.
      With a wife and three kids I don’t think I’ll ever have time for the longer forms of the game, at least in the immediate future, but I’ll always cheer on Australia and hope that we dominate the field in any form of sport.

    • Gordon says:

      10:20am | 19/09/12

      We won’t be any good at this game till we take it seriously.

      Sounds like an essay on Australian self-government.

    • StuieG says:

      10:30am | 19/09/12

      Cricket - Bwahahahahahaha - people watch it ?!?!

    • millane says:

      11:15am | 19/09/12

      again surprised you havent taken your usual pot shots against AFL or victoria - whats happening sherwood? you not feeling well?

    • colroe says:

      11:38am | 19/09/12

      I was a cricket lover, in the days when I knew who was playing for Australia.  Nowadays there are so many competitions and different forms of the game that I suspect most people have generally lost interest in Australian cricket.

    • andrew says:

      12:46pm | 19/09/12

      not everyone has pay tv either, and how much cricket has been on free to air in say the last 6 months? pretty hard to remain passionate about a game you see played a handful of times a year.

    • Teece says:

      12:38pm | 19/09/12

      The main point of this piece - that we need to take T20 seriously - is bang-on. Definitely agree that miked-up players and Usain Bolt invites send the wrong message.
      Not sure if the players should be as specialised as you’re saying. Australia tends to pick aggressive players in all forms, and many of the pedigree players also seem the best T20 candidates.
      We need canny bowlers and quick scorers who hold their shape through the shot, which we have available. But is Bailey the right man at the helm?
      Richie always says that T20, by and large, rewards proper cricket shots. I agree.

    • Aussie Wazza says:

      12:47pm | 19/09/12

      You hear about babies being swapped in hospitals and I can see this as my only excuse.

      According to my genealogy I can trace my liniage, true British, (English) back past Queen Boadecia.

      But try as I have I cannot cop cricket.

      Sit and watch. Nothing happening, eyes wander to seagull eating chip wrapper or man picking his nose. ‘Hoorah’ the crowd cries, jumping up.

      ‘Wot?’ says I.

      ‘Six at mid wicket with a left bouncer to googley in the gully’ 

      Wot? says I.

      More concentration needed; I am missing something. Watch carefully.

      Ten minutes later; still nothing. That pigeon is sitting right above the bald headed man. Sooner or later, plop. Not yet, soon, soon.

      Hoorah they cry jumping up.

      ‘Wot?’ say I.  ‘A goal?’

      ‘No, caught at silly mid off with a deep square leg’.

      ‘No wonder its so slow with a player with a crook leg, no wonder he was caught.’

      Back to the pigeon.

    • Esteban says:

      12:48pm | 19/09/12

      I once won the most prestigious golf event at my club. It happened to be a handicap match play event.

      two years later the event was cancelled from the calender. Without it being an ongoing event much of the prestige of being a winner of the event was diminished or lost if one is to be honest.

      Many people, including myself, believe that there will not be room for two alternative games of cricket outside test cricket. It is apparent to me that the fifty over game will go the way of the match play event that I won.

      Australia’s incredible legacy in 50 over cricket is in winning 3 world cups in a row.

      I can tell you that if the 50 over game loses prominance to T20 so too will the value of that legacy.

      I think that has some role in why T20 is not being embraced here as much as other countries. Protecting our legacy.

      As for other countries , well if you can’t win a 50 over world cup just cancel it and strt up a new competition. Problem fixed.

    • alan says:

      01:42pm | 19/09/12

      T20 is rubbish - it is not cricket, it is an entertainment franchise for media moguls and caters to the short attention spans of most people under 25 these days.
      It is no different than Big Brother, X-Factor or any other franchise.  It reduces and cheapens the range of cricketing skills, many of which are mental as well as physical, such as patience and strategy.  Legends like R Benaud etc only spruik T20 because they are being paid to do so.  Admittedly, the Test game could be improved if a day and a half maximum was imposed for an innings to encourage a result and braver captaincy.
      The 50/50 game is the best form in my view. Combines the skill range with strategy and forces boldness in players.
      I have not doubt in 10 years, AFL will also tamper with the rules and introduce 15 minute quarters, 9-point goals and godawful, amplified music afer every goal a la USA basketball (and T20).

    • Greg says:

      01:00pm | 19/09/12

      In the immortal words of our poet Paul Kelly, “now the circus is in town and I can no longer go down to that sacred ground”

    • Dave-o says:

      01:03pm | 19/09/12

      Test cricket has 4 different outcomes by the way

    • esteban says:

      01:32pm | 19/09/12

      Team A wins, Team B wins, draw, tie, abandoned.

    • Ben C says:

      01:48pm | 19/09/12

      1. Win/loss
      2. Draw
      3. Tie
      4. Match abandoned, no result?

    • iansand says:

      02:12pm | 19/09/12

      5 Surrendered for the bookies.

    • PW says:

      02:34pm | 19/09/12

      abandoned = draw if a ball has been bowled.

      If a ball has not been bowled it is not counted as a match.

      So you have Team A wins, Team B wins, draw or tie.

    • Dan says:

      01:43pm | 19/09/12

      I enjoy any sport where the contestants are challenged to use their skills. In tennis we don’t see the receiver letting the ball go because they will get a better one to hit next time. 2020 is the only true cricketing game where lack of skills can’t be hidden and every ball is a measure of talent and bravery of the contest between athletes.

    • Justin of Earlwood says:

      01:57pm | 19/09/12

      The thing I don’t like about T20 is that it’s too chancy. With Tests & ODIs, the better team will normally win (or will win significantly more often than not). They’re a genuine contest of skills because you need to conserve wickets when batting.

      With T20 it’s a lottery.

      Besides, you should hear what Cory Bernardi says that T20 will lead to…

    • Ed says:

      02:28pm | 19/09/12

      Given it is not long since the screening of Howzat it would be remiss to have a discussion about T20 cricket without reference to the advent of ODIs in the 70s.

      For me the take-home from Howzat was that Kerry Packer invented ODIs as a way of bringing crowds, money and excitement to the game that it so desperately needed.  There is no doubt in my mind that he achieved that and perhaps most importantly he professionalised test cricket without changing the game. 

      ODIs were fantastic.  I’ll never forget the thrill of Michael Bevan’s last ball six, the match in South Africa where over 800 runs were scored, Steve Waugh holding the World Cup aloft on the balcony at The Oval, not to mention the sound of ‘c’mon Aussie’ ringing through the house when the broadcast started at 2pm on a hot summer afternoon.  Further to this, the financial benefit has allowed cricket broadcasts to become the most technically advanced of any sport – with snicko, super-slow-mo, hawk-eye, eagle-eye and the list goes on.

      But ODIs have done their dash and people are once again voting with their feet – attendance at the last domestic series was like the life of an alcoholic that continues to drink – down, down, down.

      I’m a tragic who queues at the SCG at 4am on the morning of the New Year test then comments on things like ‘a good leave’ and good captaincy when square leg is moved two metres behind square – so I’ll always love tests more than an ODI or T20.

      But I respect those who embrace change and the will of people – whatever field it is in – from politics to sport to music and everything in between.  The change brought about by Kerry Packer’s war is what gave us the great game we have today.  Does anyone else see the irony of Cricket Australia resisting T20s in favour of ODIs?  Surely they learnt the lesson the first time!  I have a feeling Kerry Packer would be rolling in his grave if he saw Cricket Australia fiercely resisting T20 cricket against the will of cricket fans.

      Unfortunately I don’t see a young Kerry Packer with the will of steel to put a rocket through Cricket Australia so it’s largely over to them to realise for themselves that ODIs are out and T20s are in.  The comfort of favouring incumbency may not have caused too much pain thus far but the pain of change is worth embracing for the sake of the growth of cricket.

    • Sir Viv says:

      02:31pm | 19/09/12

      Test cricket. The original and best since 1877. Accept no substitute.

      However, it’s crazy to think Twenty20 is almost 10 years old in the UK and we still treat it like a celebrity sports day. We missed a memo somewhere along the line.

    • Shane* says:

      03:55pm | 19/09/12

      You’ve got it backwards:

      “We won’t take it seriously unless we’re good at it” AKA The Australian approach to sport.

      Soccer, basketball? Apparently they’re rubbish games for sissies. Also the #1 and #2 sports on earth by a country mile, but never mind all that.

    • ibast says:

      04:32pm | 19/09/12

      You’ve got it backwards.  Real cricket is suffering because we are taking 20-20 too seriously.  We should have nothing to do with it and concentrate on having the best test team in the world again.

      It’s like expecting the Crusty Deamons to be good GP riders because they do really rad tricks.  20-20 is not a sport it’s a show.  It’s about as relevant as Big Brother. Piss it off.

    • stephen says:

      05:23pm | 19/09/12

      If the Oz 20twenty players dressed like our beach volleyballers, then I reckon the girls in the stands might have a show on their hands.
      Then the whole show can get a gig at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it belongs.

 

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