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Short form gives ICC a brief lesson

The success to date of the Twenty20 World Cup, as much for its brevity and variety as its cricket, has given the International Cricket Council the chance to redeem the real World Cup.

As teams advance helter-skelter through this tournament, with as many as three matches a day scattered around South Africa, including some double-headers, the competition will be finished in just 13 playing days when the final is staged here on Monday.

This is a far cry from almost two months of the often soporific cricket that dragged itself around the Caribbean this year for the traditional World Cup, which was fittingly decided in total darkness amid complete chaos as Australia claimed a third successive title.

To make the 50-over World Cup something that can be enjoyed, not endured, the ICC should reduce it to an elite competition.

Instead of the 16-team format, with half the sides ranging from hopeless to marginally competitive, producing too many dud matches, the ICC should expand the Twenty20 World Cup from 12 to 16 teams and reduce the real World Cup to 10 sides at most. The Twenty20 World Cup would still be over inside three weeks and there would be good games on the same day as dud ones.

And even with the insistence that there be no more than one game a day played at the real World Cup because of international cricket's overwhelming objective, maximising television rights, the tournament would last little more than a month.

This is a view strongly supported by Ian Chappell, as mixed but largely supportive reaction begins to flow from this Twenty20 tournament.

"The world Twenty20 has shown that the minnows can compete with the majors to the point where not only are there upsets but where the number of annihilations are likely to be greatly reduced," Chappell said this week.

"By concentrating the globalisation of the game purely in this format, the twin problem areas of the last World Cup - a series of uncompetitive matches that take an interminably long time to complete - are immediately overcome."

Another former Test captain, England's Mike Atherton, said he had been an enthusiastic supporter of Twenty20 from its inception for revitalising domestic cricket.

"But I have always felt that Twenty20 should have remained just that - a vehicle to revive domestic cricket. Fifty-over cricket and obviously Test cricket remain vital to protecting the very essence of the game," Atherton said.

The Australia players seem to be enjoying the latest and shortest form of the game, despite last week's embarrassing loss to Zimbabwe.

However, all have made it clear that they do not want one-day cricket diminished for more Twenty20 cricket, a view reinforced yesterday by Brett Lee and Stuart Clark.

"At the moment, they're probably doing it right as far as keeping it to small doses," Lee said.

"If it's played too often, it loses its novelty value, whereas, if it's played at the start of a tour, it's something different. And having competitions like this are great because it has its own little tournament.

"I wouldn't want to see less one-day cricket played. If that means an extra Twenty20 game here or there, then fine."

Clark agreed, saying: "I'd hate to see 50-over cricket replaced because of what it holds and what it's done to the game, but (Twenty20) is thriving. It's going to become more and more popular the more it's played.

"Whether that's international, domestic, or some of these new leagues, it's going to be for the people, and it's going to be great for the crowds."

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