By Ritesh Misra
The wonderful game of cricket has three formats which are Test matches, ODI and T20. The most recent version is T20 Cricket which started as an experiment, but has become extremely popular and is here to stay. T20 cricket has its own merits and has played an enormous role in renewing spectator interest in the game and inducting new fans.
While basic skill sets of cricket are required for all 3 formats, yet it is the longest format which is the most arduous and requires the highest levels of skills, both mental and physical to succeed. Not to say that the other 2 formats don’t, but they being shorter, allows lesser teams to compete with the established stronger teams.
Let us take the example of Australia. Though they are struggling of late, especially with the ban of Smith and Warner, they have proved themselves to be the strongest Test Team in the last two decades. They win most of the Test series they participate in, barring an occasional tour to the spinning tracks of India and swinging ones of England, where home team competes with them.
Still Australia managed to win 2 of the 5 Tests versus England in a 2-3 series loss in 2015, and in the home series versus England won 4-0. Even in the recent series against a full-strength Indian team though Australia lost the series 1-2, they did win a Test as well.
In ODI too, Australia has established their supremacy and consistency. They have won as many as 5 World Cups including 3 in a row.
However, Australia has not won one of the 6 T20 World Cups played so far. India, Pakistan, England, West Indies and Sri Lanka have been World Cup Champions but Australia and South Africa who also is a very competitive Test playing Nation have not won so far. West Indies who has sadly been a weaker Test team in the last decade has won it twice.
Why does the chance of surprise results increase? The format itself being short, there are fewer chances to come back and less time too. In a Test match on the other hand, there is ample time to fight back. It is also more difficult for a lesser opponent to sustain that kind of momentum for 5 days whereas in a T20 match a burst of brilliance is sometimes required for a few overs only.
One more reason why surprise result chances are more in T20 is that with field restrictions etc, mis-hits, French-cuts, inner edges etc often go for boundaries and these very often become crucial in the context of a close match. However, in test cricket, it just doesn’t matter, since such occasional boundaries do not matter much in the overall context of the game.
In fact, this is true for other Sports also, that surprise results are more in shorter formats. For instance, in Tennis history, Grand Slam Tennis has always been dominated by a cluster of maximum 3 or 4 top players at a time. If there were Mcenroe, Connors, Borg and Lendl earlier and Sampras, Agassi, Courier later now there are Federer, Rafa, and Djokovic now who dominate in the Grand Slams which have 7 best of 5 sets. In contrast, in other tournaments which are played over 3 sets, the chance of surprise result increases.
This also explains why a fading great such as Federer can still hold his own versus the currently rampaging World No.1 Djokovic in a 3 setter but finds it more difficult in a 5 setter match. He can sustain himself better in a best of 3 match. The analogy is simple. Test Matches are Grand Slams, ODI’s are other tennis tournaments played as best of 3 sets.
Are T20’s 1 set matches? Well, that would be stretching things a bit far since a best of 3 matches sometimes is over in an hour and a Single set match can be potentially over before the spectators have settled down with their coffee and popcorn. Therefore single set matches are unlikely to happen in future. However, the point I seek to make is that if there are theoretically 1 set matches in tennis, chances of upsets/surprise result increases.
To conclude, shorter format increases chances of surprise results. T20 cricket has also the best possible format to encourage globalisation of the game since it may not be feasible for Hong Kong, USA, China and other countries to start suddenly playing Test cricket, but they can indeed play T20 and play it well too, with even chance of a surprise win or two against the big guns.
Will it stop at T20. Probably not. The English cricket board has already announced a 100 ball per side cricket match which will be 40 balls less than a T20 one. The format will have 15 traditional overs of 6 balls each and one longer over of 10 balls. Board chief Andrew Strauss said the aim was to attract new fans and also a more casual audience. He said that time is an important factor and a T20 match too sometimes went up to 4 hours or more and the 100 ball innings experiment would reduce the time of a match.
Will the new experiment succeed. No idea. However, I am sure that as it has shortened the match, even more, chances of surprise results increases further.
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films, and music.
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