T10, a format in which each side bats for 10 overs and games are finished in 90 minutes, made its debut in Sharjah this Thursday. The buzz was pretty evident around Sharjah Stadium, as fans thronged the venue while touts sold the tickets in black — signs that the format had found many takers due to its novelty factor.
But there is no doubt that most people who had turned up were in the stands only to see their heroes while the format was secondary.
One of the fans who was in attendance was Zeenat Zaman, who works in Dubai. Zeenat said: “The format, though entertaining, isn’t exactly cricket since there is an uneven balance between the bat and ball. Maybe instead of 10 wickets, teams should only be allowed seven wickets.”
This sentiment was echoed by Pakistani batsman Azhar Ali, who has said that it would make more sense to play with fewer players.
Hitesh, an accountant who works in Dubai, said, “The format is too short for my liking. Being a cricket lover I did not find it entertaining at all and I fear that this format could hurt cricket.” This is a point many cricket lovers at the ground echoed. The overwhelming belief is that cricket is a contest between bat and ball, but T10 just marginalises the bowler to the point that they are non-existent.
One can understand why T10 cricket could be a format favoured for the Olympics. For one, it takes just 90 minutes, which means more games can be played in a day. Moreover, as Eoin Morgan pointed out a T10 tournament could be done in eight days. This would fit perfectly within an Olympic event.
Qasim, who hails from Pakistan and was visiting UAE for holidays, came to watch the T10 league on the 2nd day. “Although the format is very entertaining, it takes just one bad over to significantly reduce your ability to make a comeback,” he said. This was seen on the opening day when Mohammad Sami conceded 23 runs in his only over of the game. Those six balls were enough to keep his side, Maratha Arabians, behind the required rate for the remainder of the game.
The packed stands on the first two days showed that there was some curiosity about the format due to the novelty factor and also due to the fact that people did not want to miss out on the newest version of the sport. The carnival-like atmosphere in the stands made it a good day out for those who just wanted to enjoy a day of cricket with some music with friends.
To understand how serious stakeholders of T10 are about the long-term future of the format, you have to consider the fact that the league as a whole has a 10-year agreement to stage matches in grounds within the UAE with an eye on taking the format to USA as well.
A major talking point of the format was whether it can help create an interest for the sport in newer markets like USA, China and Japan. Qasim said, “There’s no point creating an interest in a format where only batsmen will dominate. Seeing this format, nobody would want to be a bowler.” That is a valid argument that ICC should pay heed to. Countries that do not know a lot about the sport should be exposed to a format where the game has an equal contest between bat and ball rather than the lopsided contest seen in T10.
Whether this league is financially viable, we will not know for a while. If the aim was to attract crowds, then the inaugural edition managed to do that. However, the league will have to ensure that there is an even contest between bat and ball in the future which could be done by decreasing the number of wickets available to the batting side or increasing the number of overs a bowler has at his disposal among other things.
Kerala Kings, the champions of the inaugural edition, gave us a glimpse of the format’s future if a team has all 10 wickets at its disposal. That’s something which should be avoided if the owners want to increase interest in cricket rather than the format, which just promotes mindless hitting.