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Cricket dumbed down

I’ve found it quite difficult to get too excited over cricket’s Twenty20 World Championship. This may be in no small measure to the Rugby World Cup taking place at the same time.

My eggs are firmly in the rugby basket at this stage, but I am keeping an eye on developments on the cricket field.

I watched South Africa beat the West Indies in the opening game on Tuesday night, and the game delivered all it promised — big crowds, big boundaries and, by all accounts, big fun.

But I still felt a bit short-changed.

At what point does watching sixes being hit stop being exciting?

Great innings as it was, I already can’t recall all of Chris Gayle’s shot-making, and a few months down the line I will probably struggle to recall much about the game, apart from the fact that South Africa won. And the impact of his innings will probably be diluted by many similar displays during the tournament.

T20 is a fleeting form of the game, and unfortunately we are left with fleeting memories.

I can still remember Daryll Cullinan’s epic innings against England in 1994. This was the Test in which England’s Devon Malcolm laid waste to all before him, ending with incredible innings figures of 9-57. While carnage rained around him, Cullinan gave as good as he got and played one of Test cricket’s more enthralling knocks, making 94 in South Africa’s total of 175 as the ball often whistled past his ears.

Ditto the Allan Donald/Mike Atherton stand-off of 1998, which delivered one of the more hostile spells of fast bowling seen in cricket, along with glares, verbals and posturing.

These are the kinds of battles that embed themselves in the mind. Unfortunately, it is unlikely T20 will ever offer this.

T20 takes so little mental application that what you put in is what you get out. Very little, apart from a few hours of fun. It lacks the substance and intensity to leave any lasting personal impression, although I’m sure its effect on the game itself will be felt for a long time to come.

If it acts as a spur to encourage new cricket devotees, great. T20 promises fun, and if fun is to be had, I will be at the front of the queue.

I just won’t recall too much about any of it afterwards. And this time, it can’t be put down to the booze.