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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 10:32 GMT
Twenty20: Short-term fix or long-term gain?
By Paresh Soni

Brett Lee in Australia's
Brett Lee's yorkers could prove effective in Twenty20 cricket

Doomsayers have suggested that the end of international cricket as we know it will take place on Thursday.

That is when New Zealand and Australia play the first international Twenty20 match in Auckland.

The 20-overs-a-side mayhem, introduced to boost attendances at county games two years ago, has come in for plenty of criticism.

But there was similar discontent when the inaugural one-day international was played between Australia and England on 5 January 1971.

More than 46,000 turned out in Melbourne to witness a 40-over contest, arranged to compensate fans after the first three days of the third Ashes Test were washed out.

It was not one-day cricket as we know it today - only one six was hit in the entire match - but the idea caught on.

Will the same happen with Twenty20?

It's absolute rubbish. It takes an awful lot of the skill out of the game
Keith Stackpole

Keith Stackpole, who opened the batting for Australia at the MCG, and Stuart Robertson - the man credited with introducing Twenty20 cricket in England - disagree.

Stackpole says one of the reasons one-day internationals have survived the test of time is because they adhere to the basic tenets of cricket.

"It was a refreshing new format and for a batsman it was a relief from Test matches where the bowlers had it easy with three slips and two gullys sometimes!" he told BBC Sport.

"But it was still a test of your skill as a batsman.

"Even now, the fact that one-day internationals have become a little bit predictable is mainly because there aren't enough good teams.

"People are talking about tinkering with the rules to make it more interesting, but it will not be interesting if one team - Australia - is winning all the time."

The 64-year-old Victorian, who made more than 2,800 Test runs, is scathing in his assessment of Twenty20 cricket and does not see it enjoying sustained success.

A SLOW START
England were bowled out for 190 in the first ever ODI, hitting only seven boundaries in 39.4 overs - with each over comprising eight deliveries
Australia won comfortably by five wickets, but their top scorer Ian Chappell took 103 balls to make 60

"It's absolute rubbish. I know it has an appeal in England, where the twilight makes it an option for people returning from work," he added.

"But I don't see it succeeding in Australia, where we don't have twilight, or in the subcontinent.

"They are trying to embrace it here in Australia, but it takes an awful lot of the skill out of the game and I can't see it being a success at bigger grounds.

"The people looking to make money out of cricket are hoping to make a quick buck but they have to be careful.

"We should not let it detract from the value of one-day international cricket, and in particular the World Cup, which is very important for the game."

But Robertson, former marketing executive at the England and Wales Cricket Board, says attendances over the first two years have shown there is potential for further growth.

And he insists problems of light can be overcome to enable more matches to be played.

"The average attendance at B&H games - the competition Twenty20 replaced - was 1,200. The average attendance at Twenty20 games is between 5,500 and 6,000," he told BBC Sport.

"In the first year or two it was fine for it to be played over a short period of time in the middle of summer on the longest days.

If we keep getting emptier Test grounds it might open up a gap for Twenty20
Stuart Robertson

"But I would now like it to be played across the season in a regular slot - say on the Friday.

"Starting earlier defeats the objective of bringing people in, but there are still weekends and we use floodlights in the Totesport League."

Robertson, now at Warwickshire, does not agree with Stackpole's claim that the novelty of Twenty20 will wear off - and he believes the traditionalists among cricketing authorities will have only themselves to blame if its global popularity increases.

"Internationally, the game has to have a good look at how many Tests are played in front of half-full stadia.

"The one-day game seems to attract good attention so I don't think Twenty20 will replace it.

"However, if we keep getting emptier and emptier Test grounds around the world maybe there will be more of an emphasis on one-day cricket to keep the crowds in.

"And that might open up a gap for Twenty20 to be expanded internationally."




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04 Feb 05 |  Cricket


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