It’s only a matter of time before cricketers will hone their skills to adapt themselves to this innovation, writes Steve Waugh

Even though the Australians start their campaign at the Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday, the build-up in Australia has been pretty low-key so far. However, I’m pretty sure that once the games start, there will be plenty of enthusiasm and curiosity about the new form of the game.

I would have loved to play Twenty20 because of the excitement a new format brings. Who knows, this might be the premier form of the game in the next century, and it’s exciting to see the first steps being taken by the cricket world, in South Africa.

True, we have to tread cautiously to ensure that that the Twenty20 format does not eclipse the more traditional forms of the game, but it would be wrong to dismiss the latter as Mickey Mouse cricket. It’s only a matter of time before cricketers will hone their skills to adapt themselves to this innovation, just like they did when one-day cricket came into the sport.

Similar situation

The current situation is similar to the rise of the 50-over game. There were the sceptics who had dismissed it when it started. But soon enough, players like Michael Bevan took batting in the middle order and finishing games to a new level. Today, these players are recognised for their skill and consistency.

As the game gets shorter, the difference in skill levels between teams becomes less crucial. In many ways it’s like playing soccer in wet conditions, where a lesser team can be tricky to overcome.

Having said that, I still feel that the good teams will prevail most times, because good teams and good players will play the crunch moments better. This is why I would still rate the Australians as the team to beat. They have great skill, and more importantly, they play the big moments better than the others.

South Africa too would be fancying their chances, especially if one judges them by their performance in the practice game against Australia.

Batting will not be as simple as it appears with the added pressure that runs are expected off every delivery.

This provides a window of opportunity for the bowlers who are prepared to improvise and think on their feet and exploit the vulnerability of a batsman who has the future instead of the present on his mind.

Ideal platform

The Indians will be without the services of the Big Three, namely, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, not necessarily a bad thing for the team.

They have to look ahead to life without their senior players, and this tournament is the ideal platform to ring in the change. What’s more, this decision might actually prolong their international careers because it gives them a break to recharge.

The Indians are playing under a young captain, and I have been impressed with what I have seen of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I maintain that the Indians would do well to send him in at number three in one-dayers, and it will be interesting to see how he fares in this version. He has flair and his enthusiasm will rub off on the other members of his young team. In the absence of the three greats, the youngsters will be able to express their cricketing abilities more spontaneously. The Indians have had a good tour of England, and they will feel like they are in contention.

The freshness of the Twenty20 concept and the lack of a text book to refer to makes a tournament winner difficult to nominate, but my gut feel is that it will still be the team that does the basics right.

Gameplan

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