“I recall that at the time, both teams dressed up in virtually the replicas of ODI cricket gear and treated it more as a celebration match,” the 69-year-old John Buchanan says in an exclusive interaction to the Indian Express, of the first sighting of T20i in men’s cricket. It was at the Eden Park in Auckland with Australia playing against their trans Tasmanian rivals New Zealand on February 17 in 2005.
Just as the former Australia coach is speaking, the outlook towards the format is hardly the same as the Kangaroos playing India in a warm-up match ahead of their T20 World Cup campaign at home in 2022. He admits that he hadn’t projected this trajectory of the format as compared to the other two, back in 2005 during that first match.
Buchanan believes the format has prolonged the age of a professional cricketer.
“I was just there (in India) for the Legends League Cricket,” he tells. “That (veteran leagues) in itself creates more interest on the basis that you can play T20 cricket now for a long period of time and still return reasonable money into your bank account. And probably, not having had to have played this format for your country. Obviously they are the front runners but you can extend the life of a professional cricketer. One, because the format is shorter and two, now you can start playing at 20 and finish maybe at 45.”
Even with international cricket and the World Cup under the spotlight, Buchanan doesn’t shy away from the belief that the day is not too far from now when cricket takes the football route, with franchise leagues occupying more days than the bilaterals. And that the following of the sport would change from national to franchise/club allegiances.
“In between times, I think you’d like to follow your (franchise) team, if that’s at all possible. So hence, we see the proliferation of all the T20 leagues around the world, where that sort of tribal interest can be generated, which only points to where T20 cricket is headed in the future.”
The format narrows home advantage
When asked if he thinks Australia would find it easier to defend their World T20 title playing at home, with bigger grounds added to the conditions, Buchanan explains how the format doesn’t allow for much of that.
“Any home team always has an advantage. They know their conditions a little bit better. But remember, in T20 cricket, 1 ball is almost 1 percent of the innings. So that means whether it’s a dot, one, two, three, four, a wicket, a no-ball or a wide, that impacts the 120 balls quite significantly as opposed to the one ball with the same result in a 300 ball format or Test match.”
The 69-year-old adds of the inherent unpredictability: “The impact that one ball makes directly to the outcome of the game is lessened. Which is why when you look at this tournament, I’d just say it’s a very open one. We’ve just seen that. We’ve seen Namibia beat Sri Lanka. I think that’s potentially what we are going to see but right at this stage you’d probably say Australia, England, India, Pakistan or New Zealand may be the ones that can get there, into the semifinals. And then who knows after that. But again, we saw in previous T20 World Cups, India marched out of the tournament way too early when they were favorites. And that’s what can happen in T20 cricket, there’s no doubt about that.”