Lights. Camera. Action. Music. Yes, all that and colourful uniforms everything will line up for T20 cricket’s biggest prize — the World Cup. The shortest format is the biggest hit all over the world now. The overs are limited but the action is unlimited, especially the big hitting. “It’s a six” has become the game’s most attractive sentence to describe the thrill of the willow reigning supreme.
Rewind to nine years ago. Had it not been for Misbah-ul-Haq’s scoop shot landing in Sreesanth’s hands at fine leg, T20 cricket may never have taken off in popularity. The passion for the newfangled game resembling baseball more than ever before scaled such heights as to leave the ODI fighting for life in the ICU and Test cricket all but moribund..
Prior to their South African sojourn, India had appeared indifferent to the format and played just one international fixture in the slam-bang version that made its professional debut in 2003 in England. In contrast with the majority of the full members of the ICC, BCCI didn’t have a domestic T20 event.
All that changed dramatically after M.S. Dhoni, who arrived on the world stage as the man tailor-made for the entertaining version, lifted the trophy at Johannesburg on that crazy night. What else could kicked off such a frenzy in India if not for the gunning down of archrivals Pakistan in the title showdown, that too in the final over?
If Kapil’s Devils’ stunning triumph at Lord’s, coinciding with the advent of colour television in India, triggered a cricketing revolution in 1983, MSD & Co’s success in 2007 brought about the modern revolution that pushed cricket into its ultimate global sport status. As India tasted success, the money started flowing in and cricket was never to be the same after the launch of the Indian Premier League in 2008.
Cricket is now travelling rapidly along its new T20 trajectory and the globalisation of the game has received a further boost with the popularity of the shortest and most exciting format. More than 80 countries from five different regions — Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and East Asia Pacific — had battled it out to qualify for the 2016 World T20 to be held in India.
The purists who still believe Test cricket is the real deal may not agree, but T20 cricket has already caught the imagination of the people and it’s the only way forward to take the sport to the masses. India will play host to the World T20 event for the first time in 2016, with the high-octane clash against Pakistan to be held in the exotic venue of Dharamsala, against a backdrop of Himalayan mountains. From there to the final at the Eden Gardens — still one of the world’s great cricket venues — all venues are expected to be packed to the rafters.
The biennial event could also turn out to be a perfect stage for the grand farewell of Dhoni who has already made it clear that he would take stock of his future after the 2016 World T20. Dhoni has been leading Team India since the first edition and his career graph ran parallel with the impressive growth of the tournament. A second T20 title would place Dhoni in cricket’s stratosphere with none to rival him in the matter of leading teams in the limited-overs formats....