T20 May Or May Not Be Cricket, But It’s Boring As Hell

Speaking with The Cricket Couch, Kartikeya Date lays out his case against T20 and the IPL:

A boundary is hit every 6 balls in a T20 match and six is hit every 26 balls. It shows in so many ways how you cannot structurally have any conventional contest between bat and ball because they are so unequal. In that sense, T20 is not a cricketing contest.

[…]

I’ll watch an over or two of an IPL match once or twice a week. If Dale Steyn is bowling, I’ll still watch even though I know that the batsman is going to slog the third one if he plays out couple of balls quietly. That’s why I find it boring as well and it doesn’t hold my interest. That’s why I find it difficult to understand that it holds the interest of anybody who says they like watching cricket.

This is mostly excellent stuff. Until now, I don’t think cricket traditionalists — for lack of a better word — have effectively articulated the case against T20. We have bemoaned the creeping commercialization, the cheerleaders, and the general quality of the game, but no one (that I have read) has laid out the theory as completely Date has. The problem is that people  think cricketing drama and excellence means only fours and sixes and down-to-the-wire scenarios, and they think that T20 gives them just that. But Date shows instead that what they’re actually seeing is a bunch of batting miscues/errors, a strategically “dumb” contest, and a commentary that wrongly borrows the prestige and language of the Test format (“proper cricketing shot” being my favorite example).

I say “mostly” excellent because I think Date goes too far by saying T20s is not cricket, but perhaps a different sport entirely. I worry about disqualifying formats because the truth is, most people who play cricket at the amateur level play a version of cricket that looks a lot like T20s, and not the Test stuff. I’m not talking here about quality; I mean, amateurs typically meet with friends, bowl a few overs, play fast and loose with some of the rules, and call it a day. To say that it’s “not” cricket means that fans don’t really have a chance to play the sport that they follow and love.

This is a minor point, yes, but I think we’ll have more success if we try to convince people that watching T20 is a crock of boring shit, rather than arguing that it’s a completely different sport entirely. Date has given us the language to do  that.

7 thoughts on “T20 May Or May Not Be Cricket, But It’s Boring As Hell

  1. Alex Braae says:

    After a while boundary fatigue sets in, and worse, there is a sense that bowlers don’t earn wickets, they only buy them.

  2. Russ says:

    This deserves a more thorough post, but in short: don’t agree, except with your point that T20 is cricket – something I have written about already. Batting in cricket is always an assessment of risk vs. reward. In test cricket, with nearly unlimited time, a lower risk approach generally prevails – generally lower but not lowest; when the lowest risk brings greatest reward test cricket is truly dull. In T20, the shortened time frame increases the value of playing with more risk; but wickets still matter, and slogging doesn’t work, despite claims to the contrary by T20’s detractors.

    But, and this is a key point: sixes (and mis-hits) are interesting because they represent the execution of a high risk strategy; the raising of stakes in a game always partly given to chance. The failure by administrators (in all forms, not just T20) has been to stifle the bowlers, and lower the risk needed to hit a six (or four). This in turn devalues the performance, because success without risk is of no value.

    T20 is interesting because it raises the stakes throughout. It has its problems, but length of game, as Date argues, is not one of them. And its problems are no different to those that have afflicted ODI (and even Test) cricket, mostly at the behest of administrators (pitches too flat, bowlers and fields restricted, a contest easily run away with by one side).

    • duckingbeamers says:

      “Success without risk is of no value” — I think this is part of Date’s argument, when he says that even a team of 11 Chris Martins would have a fighting chance of lasting 20 overs. Now, you would say lasting 20 overs isn’t really a success — scoring runs is — but to someone like Date, that shows how skewed the contest btwn bat and ball is if you only have 20 overs in a game.

      As for the miscues, I think the idea here is that watching average or merely capable batsmen swing wildly and score enough runs is maddening. Chance mixed with ability is indeed interesting (and a crucial part of the game), but…well, have you ever played cricket with a young kid who just swings wildly at a ball? Many deliveries, the ball goes nowhere; but every once in a while, the kid will connect and send the ball flying. What’s the fun in watching that?

      • Russ says:

        I don’t see how limiting game length skews the contest? It adjusts the parameters of acceptable risk. But the player who can score faster than others with the same level of risk (Lara, Gilchrist, Gayle) is lionised in both forms, as is the player who best assesses the cost-benefit of different shots (Cook, Trott, M.Hussey).

        I’ve many times played against kids (and adults) who swing wildly. It is frustrating in the opposition, hilarious for your own team, and rarely a sustainable winning strategy. The failure of associate teams to create more upsets in T20 cricket shows that clearly. Scoring quickly (and preventing fast scoring) is really hard. The team that takes more wickets almost always wins a T20 match.

        If anything, T20 cricket is too dependent on skill. The smallest advantage (more wickets, one good over) can be leveraged into an inevitable victory. Test cricket’s multiple innings and long duree gives greater scope for comebacks (unless you collapse like New Zealand). The idea that T20 is driven by luck could only be put forward by someone who doesn’t watch it (and why should we give weight to the arguments of the ignorant?)

  3. Nishant says:

    Slightly unrelated but for some reason, the arguments reminded me of this post I had written some three years back http://www.batball2cricket.blogspot.in/2010/01/game-of-bat-ball.html
    Every game of cricket I have played (none serious) had its own separate sets of rules. And T20 is the form which is closest to which I have ever played

  4. […] IPL. They will not be shedding tears about the spectre of fixing in cricket, because they already don’t really think the IPL is cricket. If the scandals cause the league to go under, all the […]

  5. Samir Chopra says:

    When a tennis player misses the first serve, his opponent knows the second serve will be slower. The server knows he is susceptible to the hard return.

    When a football game with a one-goal difference enters the last twenty minutes, it can be predicted that the side losing will try harder for a goal. The side leading has to respond.

    When a boxer is down on points entering the third round, he will throw a flurry of punches to try and make up the difference.

    And so on. The list is endless. None of these so-called ‘predictable’ factors make these sports into non-entities.

    When Steyn runs in for his third ball, knowing that the first two have been blocked, he knows too, that the batsman will slog. He might try something different as a result. The batsman knowing this, might try something different too. There is a challenge here to be reckoned with.

    Anti-T20 arguments need to be more coherent than the one you have cited above. As it stands, its displays a profound misunderstanding of the nature of not just cricket but of sport in general.

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