Dec 04, 2023
Dec 04, 2023
The first time I heard about T20 cricket I assumed that the game will be played with 10 players each instead of 11 players. Anyhow the so called tail of the test team just used to make a perfunctory trip to the pitch, face a ball and was immediately declared out. The days of test cricket when Prasanna and Bedi used to be the tail was sharply etched in my memory. My knowledgeable friend was able to clear the cob webs about T20 and clarified that T20 stands for 20 overs each and was a shortened version of 50 over a side match. With this clarification in place I felt I had become slightly more knowledgable about the game.
I was fortunate to get a ticket for IPL,T20 match. This gave me ample opportunity to watch the game in close encounters of the first kind, the so called live stadium experience with surround decibel levels reaching the tear point of eardrums, instead of being a couch potato for a month and half in my living room, with Mahabarat being fought everyday with family members on the teleview rights. Test cricket was a dull and leisurely day time experience for five days with a rest day thrown in and at times teams playing for a draw. No one was in hurry to finish off a test match. The pace of the match by all accounts was languid. The timing for the T20 match that I was able to get a complimentary ticket for was similar to a late night show. The match was to start at 8 pm and I had to reach the venue at least 45 min. earlier in order to place my self properly to view the match.
The moment I entered floodlit stadium I was in for a big surprise since 70 % of the crowd had already moved in and the noise was deafening. All eyes were turned not towards the ground but towards the VIP enclosure since a bollywood big wig was going to be seated in strategic seat along with leading female star of bollywood. Mobile Phone cameras were busy clicking photographs of the couple so that the same could be shown to the not- so -lucky -to –come -to –the- stadium relatives, friends and foes. As soon as I sat down the DJ started playing a popular bollywood number. I thought I was watching a bollywood movie but then I pinched myself to make sure that I had indeed come to a cricket stadium. There were more surprises in store. Right in front of me the official drummer for the match was assembling his kit and within minutes I could see a very popular percussionist was in action. And in tune with the drumming I could see girls, three of them, wearing the official dress of one of the teams dancing with pom–poms. I asked the youngster seated next to me about the girls and he replied that they were the cheer leaders of the team. I asked him whether that had got something to do with the jeer leaders (i. e. the crowd, who turn nasty when a player fares poorly) but he was not very sure. He mentioned that in earlier version of IPL they were half nude but this year they are half clad. I felt that they wore dress not in synchronization with so called Indian decency.
By this time I could see members of both the teams warming up on the ground. The crowd now had the time to turn their eyes towards the ground. Every one had a close darshan of their favourite player. Everyone was smiling ear to ear for the once in a lifetime opportunity.
The captain of both the teams along with umpire and the de rigueur TV cameraman were going for the toss. The crowd erupted once again when the toss was won by the home team ( the team belonging to the region where the match was being played). I was happy that at last the action on the ground related to the game of cricket was to start.
I presumed that first couple of overs will be pace attack. But it turned out otherwise. The very first over was by an ace spinner. And the very first ball got hit for a six in a very unconventional style. The youngster next to me went gaga over the innovative shot. Immediately the distance hit got measured and it was a new record. I was wondering they record the distance covered in field events like Javelin, Shot Put etc. But in cricket. There lies the twist in the tale of T20. It’s a pot pouri of what not!! Over the next hour and half the ball got hit right, left and centre and the stadium erupted every time a six was hit with supporters of the team waving flags. The atmosphere was electrifying and the decibel level on a high. I just could not believe that what was once a gentleman’s game played with muted clapping everytime a good shot was played could turn out to a noisy affair with the crowd, the drummer etc. etc. We talk of change in rules of the game but this was a sea change in the whole approach to a game with external ingredients thrown in very liberally. This was no game. It was a huge floodlit tamasha with the youngsters having a whale of time.
The match took its course. Technology had a huge role to play with the game being shown from every angle which I realized later when I was watching the match on TV. Decisions were referred to the third umpire now and then. No room was left for human error. But then why only certain decisions by third umpire. There were instances of bad decision by the on field umpire. May be down the line if this form of game survives all doubtful decisions may be referred to the third umpire.
The first team to bat ended the innings on a favourable note. The opponents took the crease next. They had a big score to chase. They started losing wickets early. Halfway through the innings they were staring at defeat. But after the strategic break their fortunes revived. They started piling runs. There were missed catches,poor fielding etc. etc. The face of the game had suddenly changed. Losers were on their way to victory. Finally in the last ball a winning boundary decided the fate of the match. The crowd had its dose of entertainment. You could see the smug satisfaction.
As we were leaving the stadium there were whispers of match fixing. Immediately I could see a few crestfallen faces. I left the stadium with a richer experience of all that is about T20. But then one thought which kept nagging me was where was this game heading for? I did not have any satisfactory reply.
More by : Ananthanarayan Mohan