Date added: August 23, 2011 Category: Edward Towner
Twenty20 or T20 has gripped the world since its birth in 2003 and has grown from strength to strength, it now has a permanent place in any international team’s fixture list. The format enforces a different approach from players and coaches in a game which oozes boundaries and wickets. The effects are clear to see - the crowds are flocking to each game. Players like Lasith Malinga (now ODI ‘specialist’) and Shane Watson are starting to show the effects of T20 within the test arena with their attacking styles. Crowds and players alike have embraced Twenty20 but how has this new format effected the way that children approach cricket at grassroots level. Looking at the sport it is
entirely possible that young players will look at the exciting play from these world superstars and try to emulate them, effecting how youths approach the game mentally and technically in training or on the pitch.
This format has had a profound effect on bowlers and this can only be seen as a positive step for the development of young players. Bowlers and captains have to adapt and become pro-active to stem the runs.There is a generation of cricketers developing an obsession with T20 and for young people to be excited about watching and playing cricket that can only be a positive step. Mark Davis, head coach of Sussex CCC is a huge fan of Twenty20 cricket and believes its benefitting not only young players but the game as a whole: “Kids now watch cricket due to T20. They love hitting sixes and fours, whilst watching yorkers and wickets, it's progressive and innovative, it's what keeps them
excited about the game, people are worried about kids slogging but if you can hit the ball out the park thats natural talent, it's good to play aggressively first”.
Someone who is directly involved in the development of cricket at grassroots level is Andy Hobbs, recreational cricket manager at Sussex CCC. He noted that participation has doubled in the last five years, much of which he puts down to T20. Andy went on to suggest that every county attracts more people for T20 matches than any other format. There is more media exposure which means that cricket is seen by many people in a more positive and forward thinking environment than perhaps in the past where cricket was seen to be slow paced and a sport that dragged.
The financial benefits of Twenty20 are clear to see but has it effected the future generation of cricketers negatively. As we continue to see balls flying out the park and wickets falling at regular intervals has this inspired the youth to only think about boundaries rather than playing a lengthy, steady innings and building partnerships. School teacher Alex Presnell, who coaches cricket at a Kent secondary school, sees this exact problem. He has welcomed the influx of Twenty20 but has not embraced the format in the school’s fixture card: “boys would rather score a flamboyant 25 than a painstaking 50. It is rare to find a lad who blocks it these days”. This stance is echoed by the the chairman of the Sussex Cricket League Bob Warren, highlighting the worry is that kids feel they have to score off every ball, with boundaries being the only option.
As the rise of T20 cricket continues there is a worry that young players will see representing their country in the shortest form as the pinnacle in cricket as opposed to present day where gaining a test cap is seen as the ultimate goal. At test match level your talent, ability and mental strength are challenged over five days and only the best survive. The waning crowds at Twenty20 games in county cricket over the past couple of years can only be blamed on overexposure; too much of this form of cricket and so young players get bored watching the thing. You can contrast this to the morning session of day one at a Lords test match against any opposition, sold out months in advance, the excitement and buzz around the stadium is second to none and evidence that in this country test cricket is alive and kicking.
One hopes that the introduction of new shots combined with the fast paced, exciting play won’t put the future cricketers off playing or watching the longer form of the game. The IPL has inspired and converted many young crickets yet the hope is that this format is just the stepping stone into the game rather than casting a shadow over the 50 over and test arenas.
The worry is when the passion for T20 wears out and a new format has to be invented to inspire a new generation. Who knows what the future holds for the sport but one thing is for sure, that the youth are embracing cricket and the foundations are set for a future generation of T20 specialists; hopefully with a little more success than Jeremy Snape!
The T20 format has revived interest in cricket. Let's hope that its popularity never fades and opens the door for non-test playing nations to develop their own cricket.
‘Thank goodness for a short-form of cricket. The young and especially those with little cricketing background need a quick and exciting game to which they can relate. This, in turn, might tempt them to dip their toes further into the water and explore the longer forms of the game. The young will always be inspired by skills, action and thrills. The short game offers these in abundance. Batting and bowling have become inventive; subtile tactics are creeping in and fielding skills are now out of this world’.
John Barclay, MCC president 2010 and former Sussex CCC captain.