By Shahriar Nafees
From a light-hearted sideshow to the central plank of cricket’s global calendar, the T20 format has a storied history
If I am asked about the most significant moment in 20 years of my professional cricket career, I would not hesitate to answer that I was lucky enough to lead my country as the first T20 captain in the history of Bangladesh cricket. Yes. Alhamdulillah I was lucky enough to be the first Bangladeshi to lead Bangladesh in their first ever T20 international match. Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe at Khulna on 28 November 2006. I clearly remember the interview I gave to media prior to the encounter. I was asked “What do you think about t20 cricket”? I replied, “It’s fun but is it real cricket?” Now when I look back I find myself thinking that mindset was so wrong. In just under 20 years since its introduction T20 cricket has gone from being a lighthearted sideshow to the central plank of the sport’s global calendar.
The aim was to attract a younger audience who might not have the time to engage with longer formats.
Back in those days, the Benson and Hedges Cup was the most lucrative and popular one-day tournament in English domestic cricket season. This tournament was held from 1972 till 2022, one of cricket’s longest sponsorship deals. The end of the Benson and Hedges Cup one-day competition in 2002, due to a ban on tobacco advertising left a gap in English cricket’s domestic calendar. Stuart Robertson, the marketing manager of the England and Wales Cricket Board, proposed a 20-overs-per-side event, a format already known back then in amateur and junior level cricket. The aim was to attract a younger audience who might not have the time to engage with longer formats.
The first official Twenty20 county matches took place in 2003 and proved an instant success in terms of attracting crowds. More than 27,000 turned up to see Middlesex play Surrey at Lord’s – the largest attendance for any county “home of cricket” outside of a one-day final since 1953. That success was noted elsewhere, with the frenetic pace and in particular, the dynamic hitting of batsmen, proving popular with spectators worldwide. Yet there was still a sense that this was not ‘proper cricket’
The first international T20 match between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park, Auckland, in 2005 witnessed both teams clad in retro 1980s kits. The format’s growing popularity was noted by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and led to the inaugural 2007 men’s T20 World Cup in South Africa that saw India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in a thrilling final. The IPL rode the wave of India’s World Cup triumph and it is no exaggeration to say the six-week tournament changed cricket forever.
Then came Indian Premier League – a city-based T20 league with private ownership, a player auction and vast sums of money. The IPL rode the wave of India’s World Cup triumph and it is no exaggeration to say the six-week tournament changed cricket forever. The realignment of cricket, historically a nation vs nation game, to a club vs club game, had begun and this transition is still ongoing.
The success of the IPL and the money involved belatedly gave the format the sincerity its popularity deserved. Over the following decade more T20 leagues – some based on a private ownership model, others run by national boards – sprang up around the world. A decade later a T20 calendar, running parallel to – and in direct competition with – the international circuit had been established
The question arises: how and why has this newest version blown such a storm into the cricket world? The reasons are simple but powerful.
Shorter Format: To begin, a Twenty20 match is significantly shorter than a classic test match or even the original ODI match. The T20 game is played over a shorter period, making it simpler for individuals to learn how to play, and there is a greater emphasis on scoring runs than in other types of cricket. Each inning of a Twenty20 game typically lasts approximately 90 minutes, and there is an official break of 10 minutes between each set of innings. This allows the game to be finished in roughly three hours. This is significantly less time than a typical cricket match and comparable to the length of time spent playing other popular mainstream team sports. Since it was first introduced, Twenty20 matches have been a massive draw for fans and watchers of the competition on television.
Appeals To Youth: In continuation of this point, the game’s shorter duration and emphasis on hitting make it especially appealing to youngsters. Attendance at these competitions may be a wonderful experience for the whole family.
Tournaments Around the World: Numerous high-profile and spectacular T20 tournaments are hosted worldwide, making them popular spectator events. Big Bash, IPL, BPL and T20 blast are some of the most noteworthy competitions. Many big-name players amaze the crowd with their skill, whether amazing shots out of the ground or dramatic catches on the boundary performed by the fielders.
Entertaining Game: Compared to ODIs, T20 matches are fast-paced. One excellent over may affect the entire game. Thus, batters are always attempting to strike the ball. It results in an interesting, fast-paced game, which is one of the reasons T20’s popularity continues to rise.
4’s and 6’s: Watching the batter hit the ball out of the boundary is one of the great pleasures of cricket. As batters aim to outdo one another, there are many big-shot attempts in Twenty20. This keeps the spectators on their feet and increases their adrenaline as they wait to see the big hit or catch.
Cricket has been made far more enjoyable for spectators and is now a lot easier to get into, thanks to the Twenty20 format. T20 is currently the most popular version of the game, and it is easy to understand why there is so much drama and excitement packed into just 40 overs.
There are still die-hard fans who love the lengthier formats of the game, but T20 has become the most popular format overall. Cricket is a fantastic sport, and it is encouraging to see a growing number of young people participating in the game and taking an interest in the professional leagues, whether they do so by attending a game in person or watching it on television.