September 24, 2007

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS:

If It’s Hip, Fast and Furious, Is It Cricket? (SOMINI SENGUPTA, 9/25/07, NY Times)

Its members played fast and furious. They danced victoriously on the cricket pitch. At news conferences, they spoke Hinglish, a mongrel of Hindi and English that has become the lingua franca of the young small-town Indian.

The captain, a long-haired 26-year-old wicketkeeper named Mahendra Singh Dhoni, boldly told his teammates to shake off the burden of history, and they did.

Fans and pundits seized on the team’s success in the first tournament of Twenty20, a radically compressed new cricket format, to celebrate the ascendance of a brash and confident new generation, rising from far-flung small-town India, free of pedigree and custom.

“The young and the restless,” is how Rajdeep Sardesai, the son of a professional cricketer and editor in chief of CNN-IBN, a news channel, described the new face of Indian cricket. One of its gifts to the nation, he and other cricket watchers say, is to present, for the first time, a powerfully athletic presence on the pitch. Athleticism has never been associated with Indian cricket, nor with Indians in general, and that has been a chip on the shoulder of Indian manhood.

Indian cricket’s new face — and physique — emerged in the inaugural world tournament of Twenty20, which ended Monday in Johannesburg.

Where gentleman players once distinguished themselves in white trousers and knit vests, Twenty20 was accompanied by cheerleaders wearing what resembled sports bras. Restraint was out. Music was in. The games, 27 in all, involving 12 countries, each took about three hours, in sharp contrast to the customary five-day test match.

Think of Twenty20 as cricket on Red Bull. Or as the historian Mukul Kesavan put it, “kamikaze cricket.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 24, 2007 7:34 PM
Comments

So much for my prediction of an easy Australia win. They crashed out against India in the semis. Don't worry, the Aussie cricket machine will go to work to produce batsmen who can score at twelve an over from the first ball.

Everybody is gushing about the Twenty20 tournament compared to this year's disastrous 50-over World Cup. Everybody's right, of course. Sooner or later the 50-over game will seem as archaic as the white trousers and knit vests, which are still seen at those quaint things called test matches.

The real question is whether the 20-over game can help cricket grow in new countries. The game has always had the same problem as American football: it doesn't export well. The root of the trouble is the same for both sports: an already established and faster-paced competitor.

For American football, the bugaboo is rugby. For cricket, it's baseball. While the NFL shows no interest in speeding up its game to match the much faster-paced ruggers, at least cricket is doing something to match the shorter timespan of baseball.

Will it work? Oh, check back in a century or so.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 25, 2007 8:57 AM

And yes, I'm ashamed of the wordplay in that final sentence.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 25, 2007 9:02 AM
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