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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
The roots of Twenty20
By Oliver Brett

Is Twenty20 cricket a blessed format of the game?

Some pre-publicity ahead of the 2003 launch of Twenty20
Some pre-publicity ahead of the 2003 launch of Twenty20

So far it has survived everything, from its beginnings in 2003 when it replaced the unpopular Benson & Hedges Cup.

That year, when the England and Wales Cricket Board drew up its fixture list, the first five matches of the inaugural Twenty20 Cup fell on Friday 13 June.

But it proved to be no curse.

Average attendances were 5,300 per match, more than four times the typical gate in the B&H Cup.

And while the doom-mongerers refused to be silenced, predicting that the novelty would wear off, the opposite has happened.

Some matches sell out weeks in advance, the terrific finals day has become one of the most exciting days on the calendar and the gospel has spread far outside these shores.

It is popular in most Test-playing nations, and its confirmation as a world event comes in the shape of this month's ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa.

Surrey
Surrey plot their run chase as Twenty20 starts in June 2003

Stuart Robertson was the marketing manager of the ECB when Twenty20 was launched.

His extensive research suggested women and children would only watch cricket if it was in a shorter format, and started in the late afternoon.

He also gave two presentations to the Professional Cricket Association's annual general meeting.

But it was only just enough to sway the counties, who voted 11-7 in favour of Twenty20.

"The opposition from the reticent people was fear of change," Robertson told BBC Sport.

"It was something radically different to what had been played before and that's what created such a tight vote."

And yet it was not nearly as radical as the Cricket Max format in New Zealand, which lasted just two seasons in the late 1990s, with each team playing two innings of 10 overs.

"They had altered the rules quite a lot," said Robertson.

"They had goalposts at each end of the ground, and if you hit the ball between them you doubled your runs, so instead of a six you scored a 12 and instead of a four an eight.

Ryan Sidebottom and Dwayne Bravo
Twenty20 on the international stage - England v West Indies

"It seemed popular for a couple of years but our feeling was that if the new fans were then introduced to something that didn't have much bearing on what they had been excited in in the first place you could be wasting your time a little bit.

"We didn't want it to be faddy and I think that's where Cricket Max failed."

Robertson is "enormously proud" of the success his competition has enjoyed, and mindful too of the chance it has to rescue some kudos for the International Cricket Council.

The ICC, of course, presided over a poor World Cup in the Caribbean earlier this year.

Robertson said: "It felt like the organising body had gone too far in sanitising the Caribbean atmosphere.

"The carnival of cricket it had been famous for had been stamped out.

"I think it will be different in South Africa. It sounds like they are doing jacuzzis by the boundary, entertainment and music.

"Twenty20 is about the fans, it's not about the cricket as such. I really hope and think it will be a great party."

SEE ALSO
Maddy's guide to Twenty20
10 Sep 07 |  Skills
Bopara's Twenty20 batting guide
08 Sep 07 |  Cricket
ICC World Twenty20 Q&A
31 Aug 07 |  Cricket
ICC World Twenty20 venues
08 Sep 07 |  Cricket
ICC World Twenty20 squads
08 Sep 07 |  Cricket
ICC World Twenty20 fixtures
05 Sep 07 |  Cricket


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