Does having multiple formats help or hinder cricket?

Recently I’ve been watching and listening to a variety of cricket competitions in different formats. I took an interest in Sussex CCC last year. We went to a 3 games. One of each format: County Championship, 40 over game and a T20 game. I enjoyed all of them in different ways. County cricket is most enjoyable for me just because of how relaxing it is. Going to the ground on a nice sunny day and chilling out in a deck chair and taking in some sun (with factor 50 sun screen on due to my sun paranoia) is a fun experience. If you want to watch an explosive, exciting game of cricket however, you should probably give it a miss.

The reason I bring this topic up now is mainly because of watching the IPL this year. It’s not the first time I’ve watched a big T20 tournament on TV. I saw quite a bit of the CPL and the Champions League T20 in the past and enjoyed both, but this is the first time I’ve really got engrossed by a tournament fully and wanted to watch every game I could. The game between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Rajasthan Royals was incredibly tight and exciting. It was the perfect illustration of what makes T20 cricket so exciting so often. To end on a tie game and then for RR to win it on boundary count-back after ending the super-over still tied was a real spectacle to behold.

T20 is clearly the future of cricket worldwide as it’s popularity has been rising massively since the IPL started and has spread to all corners of the globe with domestic competitions popping up constantly. Test cricket attendance is going down steadily, and it looks as if it won’t be long before only England and Australia will be playing tests, with every other major cricket country focusing on limited overs.

It would simplify the cricket and help modernize the game by dropping Test and County cricket entirely but the argument can also be made that T20 brings in a new, younger audience into the sport and they may end up enjoying the long format of the game as a consequence. This may be true, but I think there are still issues with the longest form of the game that need addressing.

Firstly, it should be possible to make up missed time due to bad weather by playing longer into the evenings under floodlights. All modern grounds have floodlights which they use for limited overs games and there is no reason why they can’t be used for county or test games in order to prevent as many draws as possible. An argument could also be made that you don’t really need two innings per team to make a great game. I suppose it does give an opportunity to recover from a bad first innings but it’s a very long time to play a game that may not produce a winner at the end. Many people would be against such a big change to an incredibly traditional game but it’s something that I would consider should I be in charge.

The other thing that I don’t agree with that people often suggest, is the fact that T20 is a batsman’s game and the bowlers don’t have an opportunity to shine. I would disagree with that to some extent. While it is true that bowlers are likely to get hit a lot more in T20 than in 4 day games, they also have the opportunity to take more wickets and dominate themselves because of the aggressive batting that is required in the short format. The batters can’t afford to be defensive because too many dot balls loses you matches and therefore they are far more likely to make a mistake and get themselves out or succumb to great bowling.

My personal feeling is that each of the three main formats have their place. I haven’t mentioned the 50 over one day game much, but the most important thing that can be said for that form of the game is that it is surely the most well balanced. Batters have to be both aggressive and defensive at the same time, and therefore bowlers have a good chance of both getting maidens off defensive overs and earning multiple wickets. That’s probably the reason why the one day world cup will continue to be the biggest prize in the sport for every major cricketing nation.

Who knows, maybe eventually 50 over games will become the new standard long format for county and national games with tests only being played in ashes series between England and Australia. I think that eventually something will need to change because it’s tough for the players to alternate between playing styles often throughout the season as the currently do. Currently, teams get around that by hiring format specific players but this can’t be the best solution moving forward. As a fan, I want to support one team with one group of players. It doesn’t feel right to have almost two separate teams playing for the same club. I think if counties moved to ditch four day games, then one team could play one day matches and T20s.