At the outset of this World Cup, both the format and the event were on trial. Questions about its pre-eminence in the global game had been raised not only by the best forgotten 2007 instalment but even more by the rise of T20 and the IPL. While it’s too early to say, at the half way point the tournament seem to be answering these questions in the affirmative. At least that’s what it looks like sprawled in front of a TV screen in faraway London.
First, it’s clear, surely, that the 50 over format has plenty of life left in it and remains a much richer, more satisfying spectacle than T20. Fifty overs allows the batsman to build an innings; indeed, it demands it. It’s not just a question of the amount of time but how to use it effectively. Changing gears – which means having more than one or two gears to change through – is an art unique to cricket batting and it plays no role in T20. What’s more, to succeed over the longer duration batters need to play strokes all around the wicket, exploiting the full 360 degrees. It might be said that whereas T20 matches are won by the field placings thwarting the batsman, 50 over matches are won by the batsman thwarting the field placings.The new wrinkle of the batting “powerplay” (I wish they had thought up a less macho name) has proved unpredictable, tactically demanding and in some cases decisive. This moveable five over stretch has expanded the room for comebacks – real comebacks from a losing position that are much more convincing than the helter-skelter swings of the pendulum of T20.