Love it or hate it, cricket forms as much a part of the English Summer as strawberries and cream. As Wimbledon draws to its conclusion, the anti sports fans (and wombles, no doubt) will be breathing a collective sigh of relief as their televisions and newspapers resume normal ‘silly season’ service.
Next week however, brings with it the start of the Summer Test Match Series. (England v South Africa for those of you still following)
The test match, which can be comprised of anything up to 5 tests, each up to five days is perhaps one of the longest single games there is. As an ongoing sub plot to the ‘love it or hate it’ power struggle, the tradition long form of the game has come under fire from a few bouncers and curved balls of its own of of late. Firstly, it was axed from BBC2, moved to Channel 4, (with pay to view via Film4), followed by all live image transmission to be taken by Sky Sports, thus making free live cricket on TV a thing of the past.
More recently the shorter forms of the game have gained massive momentum – the ‘One Day’ games and the even shorter t20 (“Twenty 20″ where each side gets 20 overs (just 120 bowls) meaning the game lasts for around 3 and a half hours). Whilst the some of the traditionalists scoff at this shorter, accusing ‘pyjama cricket’ of being nothing more than a spectacle, the format itself if making huge headway.
Nowhere more so is this new cricket spectacle more hyped than In India, where the undisputed number one sport is cricket. Over a billion people – the vast majority of which will play, be a fan of or have a family member who is one of the above has recently created the IPL – the India Premier League. The problem being for the poor old test match, is that it’s looking more and more likely that the huge financial gains on the table for start players, may eventually draw them away from the months long format – the IPL, following the t20 format will potentially pay players far more in one match than they can earn in a whole test series. Some of the worlds greatest living cricketers have already felt the pull – people like Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting.
Some would argue that the t20 phenomenon can only do good things for the overall profile of cricket. It’s attracting a young, fresh fan base who can choose from a whole new range of role models to compliment the readily available grubby, spitting footballing counterparts.
Here’s a thought for you – Billionaire Sir Allen Stanford believes Twenty20 cricket can replace football as the biggest game in world sport. Quite a claim. He’s pushing this thought in the right direction by offering the what’s believed to be the biggest single prize kitty any sport has ever seen in his £10m winner takes all series between an England side and his own West Indies All Stars due to take place towards the back end of the year.
Fancy a look at the real thing?
Npower Test series:
England v South Africa second Test – 18 Jul 2008 to 22 Jul 2008
Venue: Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds
The test series continues, as part of South Africa’s tour of England (July 10 – August 31 2008).
For more information visit cricinfo | www.bbc.co.uk/cricket | www.ecb.co.uk
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