The Cricket Conundrum
Cricket is one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports. Over the last 50 years, more formats have been introduced, in order to modify the game to fit the modern age. Which of these formats is the best?
by Prithvi Prem
Cricket is one of the world’s most popular sports, followed by more than 2.5 billion people worldwide. In cricket, two teams of 11 players play against each other. Each team takes turns batting and playing the field, very similar to the American sport of baseball. However, in cricket, the batter is a batsman and the pitcher is a bowler. The bowler tries to knock down the bail of the wicket. A batsman tries to prevent the bowler from knocking over the wicket by hitting the ball. Two batsmen are on the pitch at the same time. Each at-bat officially called an "over", comprises no more than six bowls per batsman. The fielding team must dismiss 10 batsmen to end the innings. The team that bats second must score more than the other team without losing all of their wickets.
The sport was created in England during the late 16th century. Over the course of the next 400 years, the game was spread to nations including India and Australia. The first official match was played in 1877. As the population of these nations grew, the popularity of the sport increased. Now it is one of the biggest sports in the world. Recently we have seen leagues such as the IPL and Big Bash League gain massive popularity and earnings throughout the world which are now valued at over $5 billion each.
However, within the concept of the game, there are multiple ways to play the sport. Cricket is played in three main formats: Test, ODI, and T20. Over the last couple of decades, there has been a recurring question: What is truly the best form of cricket? This is where the trilemma is presented. Is test cricket superior? Are ODI matches more worthy? Or is the new Twenty20 format the real deal?
POV 1: Test Cricket
Test Cricket is the oldest form of the sport. It was first played in 1877 and now is the most widespread form of the game, being played professionally by 12 nations. It is considered the pinnacle form because it tests teams over a longer period of time. The matches are played in a five-day format comprising two innings each: Each team gets two opportunities to bat and field. Teams need to exhibit endurance, technique, and temperament in different conditions to do well in this format.
Although it is still a pretty popular formant, it has undoubtedly been losing popularity over the last few decades. Many people have lost the patience to watch one match for five days. The slow-paced batting and movement have just sparked more boredom in spectators. What doesn’t help is the fact that the match could end up as a draw after five days, which diminishes the Test format’s appeal to fans. Furthermore, Test cricket is only played during the day, which is disadvantageous to many fans due to other more important priorities they must attend to during the day.
Despite being long and sometimes inconvenient, many Test series are massively followed
around the world. The Ashes, as well as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, gain massive attention and viewership across the world. The Ashes are played annually between the nations of Australia and England. These two powerhouses have had a bitter rivalry ever since they first played in 1877 which therefore makes it one of the oldest and most popular series in the cricketing world.
A close second is the Border-Gavaskar Trophy which is played between India and Australia. Although the competition between these two nations isn’t as intense as that of Australia and England, it has certainly picked up over the last decade or two. Both series have had memorable matches and major viewership worldwide.
Apart from being the highest form of cricket, Test cricket has also bought out some of the best cricket players in history. Players like Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, and Jacques Kallis all made their rise through test cricket.
POV 2: ODI (One Day International) Cricket
One Day Internationals, also known as ODIs, are a pacier format that started in 1971 which only truly started gaining popularity in the 1980s. These are one-innings matches of 50 overs per side, in which teams with a blend of technique, speed, and skill are expected to play fast-paced matches. Unlike test matches, these matches, hence their name, finish in one day, lasting up to 8 hours total.
In terms of the rules, bowlers can only bowl a limited amount of overs. There are also many fielding restrictions for teams. One major advantage this format has over test cricket is that ODIs can be played under the floodlights, which allows more viewers to watch
Cricket’s pinnacle event, the ICC Cricket World Cup, is contested every four years in this format. This is the most-watched cricketing event, with the latest edition gaining over 700 million viewers worldwide. Another big difference between ODI and Test cricket is the qualifications for participation. Only 12 nations worldwide have test-cricket certification. Meanwhile, with ODIs, 20 nations are certified to play. This plays a major factor in the format’s popularity.
ODIs have also provided a platform that helped many players achieve greatness in the sport. Players like MS Dhoni, Kumar Sangakkara, and Sachin Tendulkar all dominated in ODIs and achieved stardom through their performance in the format.
POV 3: Twenty20 Cricket
Twenty20 Internationals are the newest, shortest, and fastest form of the game. Like the name says, this format allows teams to bowl 20 overs per innings, giving way for a short, entertaining match. This format brought in many new audiences since its adoption in 2005. A Twenty20 International match is usually completed in three hours and with aggressive hitting, skillful bowling, and amazing fielding.
The ICC World Twenty20 is the premier international T20 tournament that started in 2007 and has been hosted five times since. There are many T20 cricket leagues around the world, including the IPL (Indian Premier League). The IPL was started in 2008, and quickly gained popularity throughout India and the rest of the world. It is the most popular professional cricket league in the world, garnering over 30 million viewers annually. This league is currently estimated to be worth over $6 billion.
The edge that T20 has over all other formats of the game though, is its duration. A T20 match can conclude within 4 hours, convenient for everyone who needs to be engaged in their work during the daytime. Because of this, Twenty20 matches have been hugely popular with fans around the world. Due to the limited amount of time, teams play very aggressively, and the margin of victory and defeat is often very small.
Through T20, we have seen the emergence of competitive batsmen and many amazing fielders. Players like Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, and AB de Villiers have all made huge names for themselves through their achievements in T20 matches.
So what is the best format of cricket? This question is very subjective, and the answer depends on what the person finds interesting. Do they like the dynamic batting in Twenty20 games? Or do they like the calm build-up and professionalism that comes from a traditional test series? I personally enjoy watching Twenty20 matches the most. The big-hitting and constant chaos keep me glued to the TV screen for the entire 4-hour match. Although it lacks the traditionalism and calmness you see in Test and ODI matches, it still is very compelling. As someone who loses patience relatively easily, big hits and amazing catches are a necessity for me to be able to enjoy a cricket match. Twenty matches garner all those qualities, making them the most intense and compelling phenomena I’ve ever watched.