I’d never considered England coach Trevor Bayliss to be a philosophical ally of The Full Toss, but I found myself applauding his comments about T20 internationals this weekend. After England’s elimination from T20 Tri-series at Hamilton, Bayliss suggested that international T20s should be scrapped. Why? Because nobody give two hoots about the result. The games are just colourful TV wallpaper with about as much meaning as WWF (that’s the World Wrestling Federation not the World Wildlife Fund by the way!).
Ok, I admit I’ve embellished Trev’s words somewhat. Here’s what he actually said:
I’d just let the franchises play (T20). If we continue putting on so many games there’ll be a certain amount of blowout, not just players but coaches as well. If you want to play a World Cup every four years or whatever it is, maybe six months before you get the international teams and let them play some T20 internationals.
Although the England coach handled the subject more sensitively than I would’ve liked – I’d have preferred him to shrug his shoulders and say “I’m done with this rubbish” – I think his message was clear. And he’s not alone in his views.
It’s pretty obvious to most cricket fans that international T20s just clog up an already overcrowded schedule. They’re good fun, and an enjoyable bit of light entertainment at the end of long tours, but everyone’s exhausted by the time they come around. So wouldn’t it be better to simply abolish the damned things?
My personal interest in what was originally an Ashes tour ended after the third ODI. In fact, I was already pretty weary before the ODI series began – catastrophic 0-4 test series defeats tend to do that to me. I accept this could be because I’m a blogger, and a big sequence of matches increases my workload, but I sensed that everyone else in the UK had become somewhat disengaged too.
The surfeit of white ball cricket these days proves the old adage that one can have too much of a good thing. And it’s not just the number of matches either. T20 cricket now has so many boundaries, and so many big scores, that it’s hard to get excited anymore.
When Australia pulled off that world record chase against New Zealand the other day, in a game which saw nearly 500 runs in just 40 overs, I was completely underwhelmed. The more fours and sixes you see, the less special they become. And if records get broken every other day, then breaking records becomes less interesting too.
I tweeted about the meaningless nature of T20 cricket (or at least this particular T20 series) at the weekend after England’s defeat. I argued that it was just ‘pure entertainment’ – a comment that raised a few eyebrows. The obvious replies (and I knew they were coming) was that sport is meant to be entertainment, so what was I moaning about?
However, sport isn’t just entertainment. It has to have meaning. And the more you have of something the less meaningful it becomes. If the action comes so thick and fast that there’s no time for digestion or reflection, what you’re essentially left with is a bad blockbuster movie with lots of special effects but no substance.
One senses that T20 has now become a series of exhibition matches, or even worse, a bad Star Wars movie. A long time ago (in the Milky Way galaxy) a new instalment of the Star Wars saga was something to be excited about. But after endless spin offs, bad prequels, and the realisation that there’s going to be a new film every year, the franchise’s original fans are becoming jaded and somewhat disillusioned. The same is happening to T20 cricket – with Tom Harrison starring prominently as Jar Jar Binks.
In recent times I’ve even found myself betting on T20 cricket to create some tension and added interest. It’s a good way to make the result matter when you don’t have an emotional stake in the action. Perhaps this is why betting on cricket is now so prevalent, even in places like India and the US where gambling is restricted and you have to research the safest ways to fund your sportsbook accounts. I know that gambling and T20 cricket have become inextricably linked in many parts of the world. Perhaps this is one reason why?
All of the above leads me to question whether T20 is just a fad or whether it can last indefinitely? If players and coaches like Bayliss are getting burned out, then surely the fans can too. It’s worth noting that there have been plenty of empty seats at the Tri-series games. One Hobart resident even tweeted me to say that entrance was free at the Bellerive Oval (after a certain time) but they still couldn’t fill the ground.
Maybe one day crowds will realise that T20 is essentially one dimensional and bowlers are just canon fodder. I’d be interested to know if the IPL, for example, is getting more and more popular every year or whether they’ve reached a plateau already. I noted with interest that the Big Bash has lost £33m in its first 5 years. They hope to recover this cash in the next broadcasting deal but this is by no means certain.
Before I sign off, I’d like to remind people that I’m not anti-T20. I enjoy watching the shortest form and I think it has a valuable role to play in cricket’s future. However, like Trevor Bayliss, I feel there’s too much of it. Roast the golden goose too much and all that will be left is charcoal … and eventually an awful lot of debt.
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