Players Applaud Twenty20 Cup — 17/06/2003
The brand new Twenty20 Cup competition was launched at the weekend, aimed at delivering high octane entertainment on the cricket field in less than three hours. The opening games have been well attended and the competition has been well received in the press. But what do the players think to it all? cricnet spoke exclusively to four guys with differing roles who have been in the thick of the action on the pitch, for the players’ view on Twenty20.
The one thing that strikes you immediately about Twenty20 cricket is that it is hard work. Players have been interviewed during the televised matches as soon as they leave the field, and the cascade of water pouring off their heads illustrates what a physically demanding game Twenty20 is. Fitness obviously plays a huge part of the game, as Nottinghamshire wicket keeper Wayne Noon pointed out,
"It forms a massive part of the game for keepers. If the ball doesn’t come through to you, you have to peg it up to the stumps and then run back to your mark because of the time limitations!
"From a keeping perspective, there are three elements that are crucial for Twenty20. It is essential you maintain peak fitness; keepers also need to be on top of their game as they are often stood up to the quicker bowlers; and finally there is heightened awareness — if you are stood back, batsmen will try to run byes to you so you have to be ready to shy at the stumps in a flash."
Noon revealed that the Twenty20 concept has gone down very well in the Notts’ dressing room,
"Our boys love it! We had a big chat before our first game about enjoying Twenty20. Stuart MacGill suggested that as it was a brand new innovation, we should just relax and soak up the atmosphere. Although we lost in Durham, the boys enjoyed the experience and are convinced that Twenty:20 is here to stay."
Fun For Bowlers?
If you thought Twenty20 was tough for the keepers, spare a thought for the bowlers. Naturally the game is designed to be high scoring and is weighted in the batsman’s favour. Surely it can’t be much fun being a bowler? cricnet posed the question to Gloucestershire and England off spinner Martyn Ball,
"I think Twenty20 is brilliant! It’s a real adrenalin rush being a spinner. I love bowling in the pressure environment Twenty20 creates and try to mix up the pace I deliver the ball to prevent the batsmen from lining me up.
Ball was impressed by the size and diversity of the crowd at Bristol,
"Our first game was virtually a full house despite the fact that it was an unusual start time on Saturday morning. There were lots of female spectators and kids in the ground which was great to see and they generated a terrific atmosphere.
"Normally within ten minutes of us finishing a match, the crowd have gone home. On Saturday they were milling around for over an hour, playing cricket on the outfield and enjoying the sunshine — it was great to see."
Not Just Block Bash
Durham seam bowler Neil Killeen was quick to point out it wasn’t simply a game designed with ‘sloggers’ in mind,
"It’s not just a game of block bash. In our first game, Jason Gallian and Nicky Peng got runs with good cricket shots — hitting straight and picking up every single on offer. Twenty20 is an excellent innovation and certainly seems to have grabbed the publics attention.
"Bowling wise...it’s different! It’s difficult to know exactly where to bowl, but it is a good way of learning how to cope with pressure situations.
"I think the competition is definitely here to stay and the Durham lads think it should develop into a full league. All our guys have looked on it as a positive experience and have thoroughly enjoyed it."
Jonty Rhodes, a stalwart of the South African one-day side for many years with his innovative batting and breathtaking fielding, felt the Twenty20 Cup competition would present a tremendous learning curve for younger players,
"It creates a great environment for teams to learn to play under pressure. The game is really intense and it is hard work. Fielding has become an integral part of cricket and the Twenty20 Cup competition magnifies this. You can no longer play guys who are just bowlers or just batsmen — they have to be fit and able to field as well.
"Although each innings is only 20 overs long, partnerships are still the key when you bat. Its not just a case of swinging from the hip at every ball — the big grounds are very hard to defend and if you keep the ball on the deck there are plenty of two’s around.
"Twenty20 cricket presents a great opportunity for younger guys to come into an intense environment and understand how to play in a pressure situation. This is a great learning curve and will stand the guys in good stead if they go on to play for England."
It is still early days for the Twenty20 Cup, but there is no doubt that the launch of the competition has been a huge success and well received by players, spectators and media alike. The tireless work behind the scenes by the ECB in launching a brand new competition and concept is being matched by the hard work of players on the field. With this kind of team work, this new competition, and cricket in general, will remain at the forefront of summer sports in England well into the year 2020 itself.