Two events this week have drawn attention to the way even the most conservative cricket folk can change their minds.
First came the expected announcement from Matthew Hayden that his magnificent, long career had come to an end. Hayden, one of the truly great Australian opening batsmen, specialised in making people think again right from the start of his career.
When he seemed to be unable to make a breakthrough into state cricket, he rang the Australian Cricket Academy and asked if he could enrol. “Mate,” was the typically blunt answer, “I’m sorry but this academy is for serious, high class cricketers.” I wonder how that man felt this week as Hayden left all cricket after 103 Tests for a life in business.
Hayden had broken Brian Lara’s world record — although I felt that he could not value it highly against a Zimbabwe attack that would get a minus mark in a competition for the greatest of all time — built a formidable partnership with Justin Langer and also broken the heart of every bowler who faced him.
He batted with all the delicacy of a World War II tank, striding down the pitch against the fastest bowlers and not deciding on the correct stroke until late. He was a brave sight from the stands but he must have frightened the bowler.
World Cup begins
Secondly, there has been the beginning of the Twenty20 World Cup contest in Sri Lanka and signs that the rapid fire form of the game is being taken seriously.
This is how Hayden sees Australia’s future and the continuing success of T20. “We have now got T20 which is now rising and establishing a connection with the fans, which is what the game is all about,” he said.
Paul Collingwood, the captain of the England side that won the last World T20 trophy, has revealed just how much planning now goes into the fielding side’s tactics as it attempts to get out the finest opposition batsmen, then stop them scoring runs and finally get the successful batsmen off strike.
No doubt a handbook will follow, then a video and finally a full-length film. T20 is no longer an excuse for a mid-season hit-and-giggle.
English counties see it as a way to fame and fortune and even ECB, far from the most progressive organisation on the planet, is spending more time and effort in T20 preparation. How long before an English equivalent of the Big Bash follows?
It is also important enough for Danny Briggs, the tall, young left-arm bowler from Somerset to postpone his wedding and travel to Sri Lanka. “The missus has come round to the idea. She knows how important cricket is to me,” he says.
He won the last warm-up match on his own. Somerset has not produced many spin bowlers but the few are memorable. Peter Roebuck told me that J.C. “Farmer” White was an exponent of lifting the seam so that young players fielding in the covers often had their hands cut as they stopped drives off his bowling.
Another Somerset spinner Brian Langford bowled eight successive maidens in an early limited-over game; off-break star Vic Marks now talks a great game on BBC radio.
T20 has shown tacticians when it is advisable to use a spinner to open the bowling. When Andrew Strauss tried it - unsuccessfully - in his first Test he was accused by another former Test skipper of “look-at-me captaincy”.
On Thursday, Strauss’s critic spent more than 1,000 words extolling the virtues of T20 and what it had taught cricket. It must have a future.