The sight of Vivian Richards, with that unmistaken swagger, walking to the pitch, throwing a nonchalant glance at the field and, without wasting time, getting down to business, remains etched. He was the epitome of brutal force at the crease, smashing the ball with a disdain unforeseen, picking gaps with ridiculous ease. His range of shots was staggering, and needless to say, unprecedented. Our dear Krishnamachari Srikkanth, too, was as entertaining as any of the modern day batsmen.
The other night when I watched Virender Sehwag demolish the Chennai Super Kings attack I wondered if it was a playback of some of the shots that King Viv had entertained us with. It indeed was. Sehwag, drawing away, deposited the ball behind point, just as Viv had carted Bob Willis. It was entertainment of top quality. The difference was Sehwag was replacing Viv, who, at times, played Twenty20 cricket even in Test matches.
Of course, I will not make the mistake of comparing Sehwag with Viv. No chance. But I would say that the entertainment package that Twenty20 cricket dishes out is stupefying. Looking at the response to the Indian Cricket League and the Indian Premier League it looks the future of cricket lies in this slap-dash format of the fame. It has caught up with the young generation and one should accept it as a fact of life.
The shots that one has seen from some of the batsmen in Twenty20 have been sensational, and more innovative than in the past. The intensity is high and the pressure is on the bowlers. My mind goes back to the selectors who had emphasised the need of picking youngsters for the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup. It is a game for the youngsters no doubt but look at how veterans like Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Shaun Pollock performed in a format that is supposed to be fast and furious right through.
And then one has to also look at the stalwarts like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Sanath Jayasuriya... I don't think they are enjoying the pace of this cricket where one has to be alert and agile and respond to a situation instantly. There is little room to recover and we have seen in many Twenty20 matches that one over, one boundary, one wicket can alter the course of the contest.
The ICL showed the way to entertaining cricket. The onus was on youngsters who learnt in the shadow of some of the masters of the game, just as they are learning at the IPL. The ICL highlighted some immensely talented youngsters like Sujay Tarafdar, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Stuart Binny, Ibrahim Khaleel. The IPL too has highlighted the potential of youngsters like Ravindra Jadeja, Manpreet Gony, Swapnil Asnodkar, V Yomahesh, Abhishek Nayar. It has been wonderful times for these youngsters.
It is often said that there is little for the bowlers in Twenty20. There are some individuals who make you think twice. McGrath, Warne, Sohail Tanvir, Ashish Nehra, Daniel Vettori have managed to command respect. Not an easy task at all considering the intentions of the batsmen to have a swipe at every ball. Credit to them.
The ICL was not just about making money. It offered youngsters to play along with some legends of the game like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Brian Lara, Chris Cairns. The IPL has also offered youngsters similar opportunities. What used to be "not correct" is "now correct" and as I mentioned earlier, the future of cricket lies in Twenty20. Let us enjoy this entertaining form of the game.
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