“I was looking at the end of my career when T20 came in. I played my first T20 for Surrey. Yes, World Cup victory in 2007 changed the entire scene. I played 3 IPLs. The first one was a major challenge. While it took me 4 overs to warm up otherwise, I had to produce results in 4 overs in IPL. It was said that the RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) was the best test team of the century. Everything was against us.”, Anil Kumble quipped in his inimitable style.
This session was to discuss ‘How India’s T20 World Cup Win Changed Indian and World Cricket’. On the podium was noted sports journalist and senior editor at ESPNCricinfo Sharda Ugra in a conversation with the legendary cricketer Anil Kumble, eminent sports journalist Gideon Haigh, and the Consulting Editor at India Today group Rajdeep Sardesai who has recently released his book ‘Democracy’s XI: The Great Indian Cricket Story’. That Anil Kumble doesn’t find a mention in Rajdeep’s book remained a constant point of light hearted banters between Sardesai and Kumble through the session.
“However, once your fundamentals are right, it becomes a thing of mind over matter. All of us adapted to the format. T20 is a wonderful and entertaining spectacle and it’s here to stay”, added Kumble. Rajdeep presented his take in a rather metaphorical way and said that in his times, circus was the number one form of entertainment and those 3 hours were their way of escaping the realities of life but for the current generation, it is the IPL. He calls it the McDonaldization of cricket. Rajdeep added that though the format is exciting, it leaves him empty at the end of every match.
Ugra asked Gideon if he was a purist. For Gideon, T20 as a format becomes significant only when international season is on. Domestic T20 today has 2nd or 3rd order implications for other formats. Kumble added that winning the 2007 T20 World Cup certainly fast tracked the process. Even before the World Cup, India had played a T20 against South Africa and registered a victory without the need of any of the senior players. He differed from Sardesai on his circus allegory and said that T20 had become an extremely serious format for the players and you needed to constantly hone your skills accordingly. Even within IPL itself, there have been changes through years. There is a huge transformation that one sees from first IPL to the tenth.
Ugra wondered if sports journalists have as yet understood this format and the right way to cover it. Rajdeep pitched with his answer and reminded that a lot of factors played in during the World Cup T20. India had lost the ODI World Cup poorly and the young Indians today aren’t happy with anything other than a win. The business got a chance to leverage this new found consumerism in Indians. While Sardesai invoked Dhoni to be the ideal prototype for the format with his small town background and an unconventional appearance on the cricket field. Kumble shared his opinion on Lalit Modi and gave him credit for seeing the potential of the T20s but didn’t fail to mention that cricket had come a long way since then and it was not just about entertainment but also about strategy. If one looked at the tests, 50-70% games are result oriented now because of the impact of T20s.
Ugra lamented that perhaps batsmen no longer possess the resilience of the past and have forgotten batting for long periods or leaving the balls. Gideon on the other hand believed that such was not the case. Batsmen like Pujara still exhibit such skills and there is a nostalgia about the way he bats. There has however been one change. While consistency used to be the cardinal virtue of cricket, that’s not the case anymore. While a McGrath was successful in hitting the ball at the same spot 6 times in a row, today a bowler has to bowl 6 different deliveries in the same over.
The discussion of the evening meandered through subjects and the panelists discussed a wide range of issues ranging from freelancing cricketers to Kumble’s work at the ICC Technical Committee. “At the committee, we discuss what’s good for cricket. Soon, we will see Test Championships. In T20s, we are coming up with Asia Cup like tournaments for Africa and Australia. ”, Kumble added on a promissory note.