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Page last updated at 23:30 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 00:30 UK

Twenty20 takes centre stage

India celebrate in 2007

By Phil Dawkes

Top-billing in this summer's cricket calendar is already secure with the latest instalment of England and Australia's contest for a small urn of bail remains.

But in the hype surrounding England's quest to regain the Ashes, another potentially spectacular event has been somewhat unfairly relegated to the undercard.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) may well have summer's hottest property on its hands. It just might not be the event that most would expect.

For three weeks from 5 June, the ICC World Twenty20 will see the shortest form of the game return in all its glory to its spiritual home in England.

Tournament director Steve Elworthy has spent over a year planning it down to the last detail and the former South Africa international cannot be accused of lacking ambition for his project.

"There is such hype around where Twenty20 cricket is right now, and we've seen the explosion of it since 2007," Elworthy, who also oversaw organisation and planning for the inaugural 2007 tournament in his native South Africa, told BBC Sport.

"Everything we've been doing has been to try to ensure that this is one of the great sporting tournaments."

Yuvraj Singh hits Stuart Broad for a six in Durban
Yuvraj's six sixes in Durban was the highlight ofthe 2007 tournament

A benchmark was set by the first World Twenty20 in South Africa with a tournament that ticked every box.

Coming off the back of an unmemorable 50-over World Cup in the West Indies (a seven-week, 51-game marathon), the new, shorter kid on the cricketing block was a revelatory breath of fresh air.

It attracted one of the biggest audiences ever outside a football World Cup or Olympic Games, along with moments that will live long in the memory: Yuvraj Singh taking Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over; Chris Gayle's blistering 57-ball 117; Sri Lanka smashing Kenya for 260 and India's thrilling last-over victory over Pakistan in the final.

The 2009 tournament will use three venues - Lord's, The Oval and Trent Bridge - allowing more freedom for player and supporter-friendly fixtures.

"There are going to be a lot more double-headers," said Elworthy.

"In South Africa there were three matches on a day, including one at 10 in the morning which makes it very difficult to fill with no school holidays and people at work.

"And we don't want the players to have to fly and then play the next day as in 2007."

As one of the most multicultural societies in the world, England should make the ideal hosts for the tournament.


"The uniqueness that England brings is that, and it's a term I've heard people use, they say every country can play in front of a home crowd, because of the diverse ethnic nature," said Elworthy.

"You've got India, who are defending champions, you've got South Africans, you've got Australians, you've got New Zealanders and all of those games are extremely well-supported.

"From a home nation support point of view, and with it being a big summer for the ECB, it would be fantastic for the event if England do well.

"But there's such support I think the event will gather its own momentum regardless of however any of the teams do."

If tickets sales of about 85% are anything to go by, the event appears to have caught the public imagination, despite prices - ranging from £20 to £90 - that are somewhat challenging current financial climate.

But with the proliferation of Twenty20 competitions across the globe - P20, England's two-tier equivalent of the successful Indian Premier League is set to start next summer - is there a danger of draining the well dry?

Steve Elworthy
Twenty20 is a format of the game which reaches and attracts new people to the game

Tournament director Steve Elworthy

"When it becomes 'ugh, another Twenty20 match' that's where you've got to the point of no return," said Elworthy.

"I think there needs to be, at the end of a season, or the end of a tournament, the sense of not being able to wait until next season, not the sense of having so much of it you don't want to come back.

"It's just a case of managing that bubble and that expectation and keep the anticipation and exclusivity around it so that spectators are still hungry for it."

The immediate priority though is satisfying expectation by providing a fantastic showpiece and a major key to gauging this is what the tournament leaves in terms of legacy.

"Twenty20 is a format of the game which reaches and attracts new people to the game," explains Elworthy.

"From an ECB point of view it is vital that we attract new spectators and create a new fan-base of cricketers in the UK and hopefully, ultimately get them to play the game and keep it young and healthy."

Whilst the Ashes remains this summer's must-have cricket ticket, audiences shouldn't be fooled into turning up late for the show.

After all, there's every chance the warm-up act could steal the main attraction's thunder.

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ICC World Twenty20 squads
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