Nota bene: Before reading please be aware that this author enjoys T20 cricket and this is not meant as a critique of the format but rather an observation or two on some of the consequences.
In this time of T20 overkill barely a day passes without news of another century off of 50 deliveries, another smoting of a dozen sixes or another dramatic hat-trick. It is a time of bounty, a time of constant headlines and a time of hyperbolic hyperbole. One ponders whether T20, as a format, could be in danger of eating itself though. We watch sport to be entertained but we also watch sport to see spectacular deeds and performances, achievements that one can ponder and cogitate over in the days that follow. By nature, the spectacular shouldn’t occur very often, otherwise such achievements surely wouldn’t be deemed as spectacular.
Ergo, one ponders whether T20 cricket is rendering the spectacular a little too familiar. If the spectacular becomes run of the mill, where does the game go next? The insatiable desire for something better and more spectacular is surely going to reach a point where the game hits a ceiling. By further skewing the imbalance between bat and ball T20 cricket has effectively cheapened the value of the run, the wicket, the century and the hat-trick; a sort of cricketing deflation. The achievement of these landmarks threaten to become so standard that they could become a bit meh.
The multiple reasons for a surge in previously deemed spectacular achievements are largely obvious. For the batsmen a couple of the main factors behind the increase in sixes and centuries are pitches all but dead offering nothing to the bowlers and shorter boundaries offering less of a challenge to be cleared. For the bowlers and the increase in hat-tricks one could argue that the factors are a little more subtle. Some will highlight that T20 critics routinely chirp on about how bowlers are nothing but cannon fodder so the increase in hat-tricks can only be seen as a boon for the format but in reality one could argue that one contributory factor to the growing number of hat-tricks is the endless pursuit of sixes (the only currency of value in the format) leading to the devaluation of one’s wicket. Most of the time the batsmen comfortably emerge on top but the law of averages dictates that the proceedings won’t quite progress according to plan for them and the bowlers will enjoy a moment in the figurative sun. The ever increasing number of matches being played surely provide a correlation with the increased number of instances.
The near perpetual scoring of centuries, bludgeoning of sixes and taking of hat-tricks has also led to a particularly irritating bi-product: the stream of nauseating, endless stats that are pumped out ad infinitum in the various media outlets. Even for a sport that produces a vast array of statistics the obsession with attempting to quantify the latest achievement further adds to the sense of overkill. Context is also lacking as a player’s number of runs, sixes or wickets are lumped into one: those scored or taken in T20 cricket as a format at large rather than the equivalents in first-class cricket where there is a distinction between runs and wickets in test matches and the equivalents in other first class matches, a distinct hierarchy that provides context to particular achievements. Players now play more games throughout the year, particularly if they are regular performers on the T20 circuit, so arguably possess a greater chance of scoring more runs or taking more wickets. The astute will highlight the lower number of overs but as the value of the run and the wicket have become diminished so the scoring and taking of more has risen.
In essence, the gradual devaluing of cricket’s statistical achievements is akin to Football increasing the size of the goals, restricting the number of defenders allowed in the penalty area and then eulogising goal scorers for their magnificent and prolific scoring feats. Or Golf increasing the size of the hole and then extolling the best players for recording birdie after birdie after birdie. The almost daily occurrence of seemingly spectacular performances threatens to render all such achievements as unremarkable or unexceptional. Fine dining at a Michelin starred restaurant is likely memorable the first time, the second time and even the third time but if indulged on a daily occurrence the experience would surely become all too familiar.
Perhaps this is over-thinking it all though. In some respects T20 cricket as a format is largely forgettable so the achievements of last year have either been forgotten or become so last year after all. One could argue that T20 cricket as a format is not about what happens on the field but about everything else; all the chintzy fripperies. Maybe T20’s greatest coup is that the actual cricket that is played is so eminently forgettable that within a day or two of watching a game one is pondering a return because one has already forgotten how forgettable the format proves; a sort of cricketing amnesia or the hangover after the previous night’s revelries. Thus another century or another hat-trick remains big news. For the fan of the sport rather than just the format this proves rather alarming but for those only interested in watching sixes being flayed such a point is forgettably irrelevant.