A couple of days ago, I heard one of my friends say during a discussion that the Twenty20 World Cup should be played in the same format as the 2019 World Cup – with the ten best teams of the world. I was initially taken aback at the suggestion considering I am one of the supporters (can’t really call myself a proponent here!) of spreading my favorite sport to as many countries as possible. Having 10 teams play each other in a round robin league is not a bad idea – after all every match then will be competitive and this will ensure a good tournament from the points of view of finance and quality.
However, if you really want the game to go global and challenge other sports, especially soccer, for world dominance, it is advisable that as many teams as possible be included in the fold and that too in the leading tournaments. Nobody is asking the ICC to include these teams in test cricket because they are clearly not ready for it. But Twenty20 is a format where the gap in class between teams is less evident due to short time span in which these games are played. Participation in these tournaments will also help the players from the newer nations get a closer look at how the top cricketers go about their business and learn and implement those routines. This will only increase the overall quality of their game.
Also, if you do not have some incentives for the smaller teams in the form of participation in the bigger tournaments, then what shall be their motivation for playing the game and that too, to the best of their capability? They might just pack it in and we could lose a bunch of talented cricketers just because the high and mighty ICC was not willing to give them a chance. It is also important for the powers that be to know that they are really overlooking some good markets and greater revenue by not fast tracking the smaller countries.
Twenty20 is one form of the game that is liked by more people around the world than either test or one day cricket. It is the greatest bet if the ICC wants to increase the viewership of the game around the world – it is flashy, fast and takes very little time and these are qualities that are likely to attract countries where people are not accustomed to watching the longer forms of the game. You also need to take into account the number of Indians and Pakistanis living in various countries around the world and what sort of revenue can be generated by tapping into them by giving the countries where they live a chance in the T20 World Cup.
The way the game is progressing, it is almost sure that test cricket will one day die and very soon 50 overs games can go that way as well. So, before the unthinkable happens, the ICC should make the necessary efforts to popularize the game as much as possible.