World Cup will be a huge success
After a disappointing World Cup with ended in farcical conditions cricket officials and players have both admitted that this years inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in September will be a huge success.
The Twenty20 World Championship in September is likely to succeed where the World Cup failed by selling out stadiums and luring television viewers with baseball-style hits and games that go to the wire, said David Stewart, a director of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“I’d be astonished if it’s not very successful,” Stewart said in an interview in Barbados. “And if the sponsors like what’s happening in South Africa, TV likes it and the crowds like it, it will be irresistible.”
Twenty20 matches, lasting about three hours each, encourage attacking play by restricting teams to 20 six-ball overs each instead of the usual 50. The format has drawn sellout crowds to domestic and international games in England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies. India, which initially opposed the new game, staged its first such tournament this month.
The inaugural event, with South Africa as host, will feature 12 teams competing over two weeks, with as many as three games a day. Twenty20 matches come with razzmatazz, including cheerleaders and rock bands, helping to attract young people and women to a sport associated with lunch breaks and rain delays.
“In terms of the way the fans see it, it certainly could be” bigger than the World Cup, Graeme Smith, South Africa’s captain, said after his team lost to eventual champion Australia in the World Cup semifinals. “It’s certainly taken off back in South Africa. A lot of people are looking forward to it.”
Attention is turning to the September event after the ninth Cricket World Cup, the first in the Caribbean, slumped as a spectacle. Only 3 of the 51 matches went into the final over with both teams harboring a realistic chance of victory.
Many games were played before half-empty stadiums amid criticism by officials including South Africa’s Ali Bacher that ticket prices — ranging from $25 to $100 — were too high for locals, who were also angered by restrictions on taking food, drink and musical instruments to stadiums.
The April 28 final provided another setback as the end of Australia’s victory over Sri Lanka was marred by confusion. After holdups for rain and bad light, Australia began celebrating its victory before the umpires mistakenly ordered it to retake the field and bowl three more overs in near darkness to an opponent that had accepted defeat.
“The farcical final was an embarrassment to anyone associated with cricket,” the former England bowler Jonathan Agnew wrote in his column for the BBC. “What an appalling advert for the game.”
Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the International Cricket Council, said the 47-day tournament needs to be shortened by 7 to 10 days. Speed said he expected the World Cup to remain cricket’s premier event, although he did not underestimate the potential of Twenty20.
“We now have a new form of the game that can take it to new places and new people and can generate a great deal of excitement,” Speed said.
English cricket introduced Twenty20 in 2003, and the format is now the biggest source of match revenue for all 18 county teams outside internationals. Four Twenty20 home games account for more than three-quarters of the $2.5 million annual sales from domestic games at Surrey, England’s richest county team.
Since 2005, 14 Twenty20 internationals have taken place, with all 10 Test-playing nations competing at least once. West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Canada will contest an August tournament in Toronto as a World Championship tuneup.
The format’s appeal to younger fans may help attract consumer-based sponsors to a sport traditionally linked with the financial sector, said Nigel Currie, director of Rapport, a sponsorship consultant brand based in Guildford, England.
“You’ll definitely see a move towards the fast-moving consumer goods like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola,” Currie said in a telephone interview. “If you look at all the sponsors, they tend to be corporate- or big-business-type elements, which has always been cricket’s thing.”
England’s three oldest competitions are sponsored by insurers: Liverpool Victoria, Friends Provident and National Westminster Bank.
Former and current players are divided on Twenty20. Critics including the former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding say quick-fire cricket teaches children bad techniques and burns out elite players.
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