CLOSE-IN: T20 becomes similar to a game of chess
By Yajurvindra Singh
May 28: Cricket’s T20 format was an attempt to liven up the game and make it viewer friendly. It turned out to be a success and a lifeline for the game of cricket. Every game around the world is filled with loud, active, boisterous spectators brimming with enthusiastic energy. It is reminiscent of the Colosseum, where gladiators fought for their lives and prestige during the days of the Roman Empire.
T20 cricket evokes a very similar attachment and emotion among the crowd, however, without the true bloodthirsty response of old.
The early days of T20 cricket were seen as a slam-bang version, in which thoughtless cross-beating and stroke-playing were the norm to follow. Yuvraj Singh, hitting 6 sixes off a Stuart Broad, in the first-ever T20 World Cup, was the epitome of every hitter’s desire. India winning the Cup in 2007 was just the tonic the doctor prescribed to energize the Indian fans.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008 had skeptics who felt cricket was being sacrificed for commercial gains and the sport would lose its character and the values it represents. The game of a gentleman who reveled in artistic stroke-play would breed fags who would do well to kill flies. A brilliant 158 from New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum on just 73 balls for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural IPL game in 2008 was a revelation. He played correct, conventional and courageous cricket shots, which not only made his innings admired, but also became the precursor for others to follow. It gave just the necessary boost not only to the T20 format but also to the most lucrative cricket league in the world, the IPL.
Chris Gayle, the powerful and strong West Indian cricket star with his vigorous hits, became the IPL superstar and the one every batter wanted to emulate. Cricket has evolved from a game of a number of runs scored to strike rates, indicating the number of balls faced to get them.
So cricket came to life with batters ready to strike and attack. The fast pace of the game has forced cricketers to become more agile, fit and thus look like well-sculpted athletes. Cameras on every corner of the pitch highlighted every move they made and slow-motion replays became a luxury to enjoy. A cricket match has blossomed into a mysterious story with an uncertain ending, while spawning heroes and villains as it progresses – entertainment the family can join in on.
The slam-bang approach of the original T20 theory gradually gave way to a more planned and strategy-oriented concept. Players, matches and conditions were analyzed to the ultimate degree by IT professionals and teams of trained support staff, using data and results extensively for their use.
T20 cricket has gradually changed by leaps and bounds. It became a game of chess between two teams, each making moves and thinking ahead. Yuzvendra Chahal, the cunning leg-spinner and renowned chess player himself, in a recent interview talked about how he studies the beater to surpass him. Interestingly, the game has become a mental battle between batter and bowler. Each tries to read the other to outsmart each other.
The batsman gets an idea of what the bowler has in mind by the pitch placement set up. However, many bowlers have foiled the batsman by playing a dummy move. A batter still has an advantage with bowlers having a width restriction as well as a defensive players restriction outside the 30-yard circle. Bowlers have also innovated in a major way. The variety of deliveries that many have now adept at doing is quite remarkable and innovative.
Cricket has never seen such a transformation as what it is going through over the past decade. The innovative and unimaginable strokes of batters and the varieties of variable deliveries produced by bowlers have made cricket a game very different from that of the past.
The board is so prominent in today’s world of T20 cricket. Many pawns are sacrificed and rooks, bishops and knights are moved to strategize victory. A queen is an all-around player who could, through batting or bowling, change the complexion of the game. The king is the citadel that every franchise team protects, through planned strategies and thoughtful moves to avoid a checkmate. .
Cricket eventually became a game of brains as well as strength – a game that requires a cricketer to think right and act with strength. The T20 format totally revolutionized cricket for years to come.
It feels like Test cricket will never be the same again. Modern cricketers are products of the rapidly changing digital world, in which speed is important for progress. Latecomers will be left behind.
Chess also has a “fast” version. T10 cricket could be next to follow. One then wonders what new innovation will emerge.