The refined supporters of the shorter format, possibly also the ones with ADHD, will argue that it is not only the entertainment value that has worked, but the sheer variety of skill sets that have done the job. The convenient purist knows that had it not been for T20, some innovative batting, razor sharp fielding and crisp bowling would have taken longer to evolve. He might scorn at Dilshan scooping one over the keeper’s head for a boundary, but will secretly root for it!
Same goes for the other two departments. The Indian Premier League, the biggest converting agent for this purist, has thrown up some spectacular bouncers and breathtaking catches. To see right-handed batsmen playing left-handed shots, traditional off-spinners carroming the ball away and batsmen pushing the threshold for the amount of runs scored in a day are all not just amusing moments, they require pure skill and hours of practice, perhaps as much as that which goes behind surviving a morning session or taking a 10-for in a test.
The result of many ‘converts’ joining in the bandwagon is that there is a T20 World Cup every two years (the next one beginning soon in Sri Lanka) and an unmistakable T20 match in nearly every bilateral series. On the other hand, there have been more instances of test matches getting over in three days, some oddly timed retirements and an overall slack that test cricket has had to face. (The dogged purist, however will take pride in the fact that the entertaining Kevin Pietersen has quit ODIs and T20s and not tests!)
Coming to rivalries and loyalties (no we aren’t bringing up the country-v/s-club issue to bore you), while many Indian fans appear to be unconcerned while watching most clubs, it only takes an outstanding win or unexpected transfer to get them riled up, purists included! Take the instance of Kolkata Knight Riders: the aficionados of Bengal, a state notorious for being home to many purists, were up in arms when local hero Sourav Ganguly was dropped. ‘No Dada, No KKR’ they yelled. But given KKR’s sensational win in the IPL this year, most of them celebrated on streets as if it was some World Cup win! Convenience of being a purist, get it?!
That said, what fun would T20 be without its detractors, those soft voices in a boisterous herd? Let’s see how many turn away their noses when another World Cup takes the sub-continent by storm!