Burns Eye View

T20 Rules Ok?!

As the ECB launch their plans for a new 100-ball over tournament to create interest amongst boys, girls and mums, I find myself in the company of some West Indian legends who are talking about the game that we love, and the game that is now being promoted by today's leading administrators.

I am currently on a working holiday in the paradise island of Barbados, and I have enjoyed the privilege of spending some quality time in the company of Sir Garry Sobers and also one half of arguably the game's greatest ever opening partnerships, Desmond Haynes.

As is the customary nature of retired Cricketers, we find ourselves engaging in conversation about yesteryear and 'the good old days'. But, cricket conversation with Sir Garry is more than that. He has an empathy with the modern day player, and the challenges he/she faces with the multi-formats and the fact that money is now at the forefront of the game which has less resonance with the sport he once graced on the field, and continues to grace off the field.

Sir Garry is a powerful advocate of sport in general, and cricket in particular.

Desmond Haynes, is a passionate man with rare insight about what it takes to become a great player and to be part of a brilliant team for over a decade, his West Indies Team under the legendary captain Clive Lloyd and then Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, beat all-comers and became arguably, the greatest sporting team the world has ever known.

Both men espouse the values of learning 'the longer format' first, and then adapting one's game as a player's career develops. But, the world is changing, and the future of our treasured sport seems to be increasingly geared towards the short format skills.

Cricketers who can 'muscle' the ball out of the park may soon become known as 'the Babe Ruth of cricket'. Personal fortunes are there to be made. But, Cricket remains a team game played by individuals, and not an individual game played by a team.

Ultimately, cricket must decide whether it wants to becomes a version of baseball/rounders or whether it wants to promote all of the many 'hidden' values that our great sport represents: teamwork, discipline, patience, controlled aggression, sustained levels of pure concentration, strategy, subtlety, and above all else: a variety of skills, all of which are component parts of what makes up a great cricketer and a brilliant cricket team.

Can this be revealed in the space of 100 balls? I doubt it. In fact, I will be more 'conviction politician' and say that I don't think it can.

Fundamentally, cricket needs to find its place in the commercial world, but without losing its soul.

For administrators such as ECB Chairman Colin Graves and CEO Tom Harrison, the step-change is about infusing the next generation with love, passion and enthusiasm for the sport, rather than motivating the current generation to develop both the necessary skill and the will, necessary to excel across all formats.

And, for those involved with nurturing future England players to become consequently excellent at the top level of the sport, I wish you all, every possible success. It is a fascinating time in the history of cricket, but ultimately the basic skills remain the same. It is about having mastery of the ball, and developing mastery of the bat so that it can dominate the ball.

Will T20 take over the world of cricket, over time? Yes, I think it will. But, the game will be poorer for the sake of it, if and when it does. Cricket is more than 'bush, bash, bosh'!

Neil Burns


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