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As T20 returns, in a game wired for worry, expect anxious looks back to a golden age
Does any game worry more than cricket?" asks cricket writer Gideon Haigh while introducing a collection of essays. If you have any doubt that the answer is anything but "no", pay close attention to the background chatter these coming days and you shall be convinced that his question is obviously rhetorical. For nothing is guaranteed to fling cricket's enthusiasts into paroxysms of despair as much as the start of yet another Twenty20 match. Beware, though, as the World T20 gets under way in Sri Lanka today — that despair can be catching.
There is a single question at the heart of this current spate of worrying that has been the background hum for the five years since India won the title at the inaugural tournament in 2007, and especially since the Indian Premier League (IPL) appeared to rewrite the club versus country (and by implication, a four-hour-long slam-bam versus a five-day contest of skill and strategy) priorities of many leading cricketers. It is this: is cricket, as we have known it, in danger of extinction? In the analytical grasp of the most conscientious worriers, the answer is taken for granted, and the question is better posed as this: how much damage will T20 wreak before folks see the light and abandon what are, in these purists' view, its fleeting thrills?
If only they'd stop worrying and learn to laugh at themselves. If only they'd see cricket as it really has been. Because cricket, even before a marketing genius at the England and Wales Cricket Board unwittingly launched the T20 era in 2003, was always wired for worry. Step back, and you have to chuckle at the audacity of cricket's expectations. Just by way of an example: a game born in England — England, where we just saw marathon runners brave the rain in pursuit of an Olympic medal — demands dry conditions for play to proceed. When we are done worrying about the weather and what that easterly breeze or that overnight dew may mean for the drift of play, we fret over the keenness of the contest. Let it not be too one-sided, please, or we will lose interest, and then what have you.
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