by Rex Clementine

When the International Cricket Council mooted the idea of a T-20 World Cup and chose South Africa as the host nation in 2007, it had to convince the Board of Control for Cricket in India that this was a venture worth moving forward with. The tournament would have been a flop without India. The Indian board had many reservations and the ICC had to make quite a few compromises.

BCCI argued that commercially T-20 cricket didn’t have much value for the simple reason that 50 over one-day cricket brought in 100 overs of television slots between the overs while T-20 cricket brought only 40 overs of television slots.  In fact, India held back all their big boys from the inaugural T-20 World Cup and  instead sent a young team.

That young team had a few guys who had been playing international cricket for a while like Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh. Instead of handing the captaincy to any of them, Dilip Vengsarkar chose  the untested M.S. Dhoni. The Indian wicketkeeper’s smart approach, unruffled nature and attention to detail saw India becoming the champions  beating arch-rivals Pakistan in a nail-biter.  The Indian public embraced the latest addition to international cricket and the board was quick enough to realize this and cashed in. 

Yuvraj’s six sixes in an over off Stuart Broad was one of the highlights in that tournament.

Today thanks to T-20 cricket, players and boards have become richer while it has given fans much needed excitement especially at a time when younger generations are moving away from the sport. New audiences are not emerging in cricket due to the fact that the game is dragging on. T-20 cricket which finishes in just over three hours is the ideal format to attract youngsters.

In the 2009 edition of the  World Cup, Sri Lanka unleashed a 22-year-old rookie by the name of Angelo Mathews against  the Aussies in Nottingham and he was a breath of fresh air, pulling off stunning catches, blasting boundaries against world’s quickest bowlers and then running through sides with his underrated seam bowling.

They won six games in a row in that completion overcoming some  formidable sides and  Mathews was proving to be an excellent finisher lower down the order. Sri Lanka were drawn to play the semis against the West Indies and Chris Gayle’s side were the favourites to go through to the finals.

Defending 159 runs, Mathews was given the new ball ahead  of Lasith Malinga and  he  ran through the  side claiming  three wickets in the first over of the innings, all three bowled. West Indies were in the end shot out for 101.

England won their first major ICC event when they emerged champions of the 2010 edition in the Caribbean beating old foe Australia. They were brilliantly skippered by Paul Collingwood and  Kevin Pietersen came up with some match winning knocks. England selectors’ belief that spin bowlers could turn out to be match winners in T-20 cricket proved vital as Graeme Swann bowled superbly.

West Indies reclaimed their glory days winning the title in 2012 and although  this team had several match winners,  Darren Sammy’s leadership proved to be inspirational. A limited player with bat and ball, Sammy was the uniting force of a team divided by several countries and cultures.

Windies were in fact involved in three consecutive finals in 2012, 2014 and 2016 with Sammy at the helm on all three. In 2014 they did lose to Sri Lanka but  won the trophy in India in 2016 by playing some spectacular cricket.

England looked to have secured  the trophy as West Indies needed 19 off the last over at Eden Gardens. Then Carlos Brathwaite smashed four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The 2021 edition had much heartbreak. India looked to be the team to beat with all bases covered but they were thrashed by Pakistan by ten wickets and then they themselves went onto lose the semi-final to Australia, who gained momentum during the tail-end of the tournament and went onto win their first ever  T-20 World Cup.

The eighth edition of the tournament is being played in Australia for the first time and the Australian government is putting up a grand show welcoming players, officials and media with open arms  having waived off visa fees and biometrics. 

As for the organizers, they are expecting the game to reach a record audience across the globe.

Australia are the favourites. They are so good that a certain Steve Smith can’t find a place in the playing eleven. England are peaking at the right time. The  only reservation being that they maybe carrying too many players who are over the hill.

India have suffered some irreparable loss as both Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah have been ruled out and will struggle to reach semis.

West Indies are the dark horse. They have got to play a qualifying  round but having seasoned campaigners who have played T-20 cricket all around the world, they are a side that will be feared like the plague.