My personal relationship with T20 cricket has been a complicated one. As a Test match purist, I didn’t have much liking for it at the start. Then I got caught up in the initial wave of the IPL but soon felt that it had become a bit of a song and dance that was cheapening the sport.
I watched the odd game but nothing more after that. However, in this current edition of World T20, my interest in the format has found a new life.
As a South African, I bet you find this hard to believe. I mean the ‘Choketeas’ have just used the format to once again disappoint a nation but my interests have been aroused because of another team. New Zealand.
Earlier in the tournament, Dennis Freedman wrote a brilliant article about the Black Caps in Firstpost, summing up perfectly how they are just a little different. A little bit of ‘alright’ in a format that often tries a bit hard for attention.
Everything is of course heightened in T20 because of its shortened format, so the temptation to think it’s nothing more than hit and hope is a natural one. New Zealand have, however, shown that the format still possesses intricate layers, subtleties, and opportunities for a variety of skills and strategies to come into it at various stages.
Nothing is obvious in T20s, nor should it ever be. It’s great if you can have a guy who steps to leg and hits a 100, then dances his way back to the dressing room but that is not actually what the game is about. It’s about riding the highs and lows, working yourself into positions of strength, and being clinical in the milliseconds when you have to be.
Test cricket is about the big stars and gaining dominance, ODIs are the same to a slightly lesser degree. But T20 is about being a platform for all kinds of talents to shine; it’s cricket for absolutely everyone and a place where the game can really be itself, depending on the situation.
T20s are about Martin Guptil 80s, Nathan McCullum 2/15s and Adam Milne hitting the deck hard on a dusty surface as Tim Southee and Trent Boult carry the drinks.
T20s are about a team getting hit for 60 off 5 overs, then going for less than 100 for the next 19. It’s about defending a score of 127 against home town favourites when everyone has written you off, and bowling teams out for 70 and loving every moment even when little is at stake.
It’s about trying new things, and being willing to lose everything in order to win.
T20s are about trusting your gut, having a go and never taking yourself too seriously with a silly point in place outside of a powerplay.
New Zealand are all the above and so much more, and for this very reason they have made this tournament special for me, and just about everyone else.
I don’t envy England right now. They aren’t just playing a team, it’s like they are playing cricket’s version of Neo from The Matrix.
They see things differently, do things differently, and all of this make them a very difficult team to try and beat.
If there are cricket gods, and they were asked who they are backing right now in this tournament, I reckon they would back New Zealand. They are a team making the game look good right now, and long may they continue to do so.