After such a clamouring for competitive sport over the past 12 months, the prospect of a competitive World Cup in one of the major sports played all over the globe had the prospect of providing deprived sports fans with the elite performance and competitive edge that had been craved by so many.
However, with such a saturated calendar, alongside the prospect of playing to sparse crowds, the recent T20 Cricket World Cup appeared to simply dissipate faster than England’s chances beyond the group stage.
2021 T20 World Cup
With a tried and tested Indian Premier League campaign under its’ belt, the UAE played host to the biggest format of the game’s shortest form. The constant and unrelenting threat of COVID once again threatened to challenge whether sport could exist in such a climate however the COVID-secure protocols throughout a host of select venues provided a platform to help minimise any potential risk of an outbreak; allowing the tournament to run with minimal interruption to players or officials.
A blistering and powerful run chase by Australia in the final against New Zealand secured them their first World T20 title; a prospect that looked highly unlikely following an obliteration by England at the Super 12 stage that saw the now World Champions lose by 8 wickets with 50 balls remaining.
With the finalists coming from two of the worlds most dominant nations in the shorter formats of the game, the casual observer would be forgiven for thinking that this tournament ran to form with the favoured teams emerging as the last teams standing.
Whilst this remained true to an extent, the extensive calendar commitments combined with the unenviable ‘bubbled’ environment that professional players find themselves in as the world emerges from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has taken its’ toll on players from every corner of the globe.
With all formats of the game now heavily influenced by marketing and media implications, there is a consistent and sometimes overwhelming pressure to fulfil an extensive commitment across all formats of the game. Naturally, the product becomes diminished with an extensive provision and for giants of the game such as India, the extensive amount of Cricket being played came as a significant reason for their country’s group stage exit at the 2021 World Cup.
As with the majority of concepts, frequency or volume diminishes value. A product so easily and frequently accessible does not command the same value and importance as an alternative that is far more readily available. Throughout elite sporting competitions, the concept still holds true.
The Olympics remain every four years, as do the major World Cups, Continental Championships and Commonwealth Games. In Cricket, Test matches are still seen as the pinnacle of the sport and therefore every Test cap remains a prestigious event. In 2021, the majority of Test nations were playing less than 10 test matches in the calendar year, with no country playing more than 16 times (England and India).
For New Zealand, their T20 side took part in a 5-match series with Bangladesh, shortly before 2 World Cup warm-up games and 7 world cup matches, including a thrilling Final against Australia. After such a monumental occasion as a World Cup final, the majority of sports would employ a significant period of rest to unwind from the physical and mental demands of the process, particularly in a COVID-impacted tournament on a different continent.
For the Black Fearns however, they had just three days to wait until they played the first game of a 3-match T20 away series in India. Whilst the viewing figures from the World Cup produced record returns for the ICC, the immediate reprisal of competitive T20 fixtures without the allure of the wider global tournament felt more like a badly planned timing than a carefully constructed international calendar.
After being knocked out by their visitors in the World Cup and with home advantage, India whitewashed New Zealand with a comfortable 3-0 win before winning the final test match of the 2-match series after a draw in the opener.
The future of T20 Cricket
Given the impact of the pandemic’s delay on the World Cup, it will now be less than 12 months until Australia put their newly won World Cup trophy up for grabs at 2022 edition. This time, however, they will be doing so in their own back yard as they host the competition.
2 World Cups within the same format, along with the IPL, Big Bash League, Pakistan Super League and the introduction of The Hundred in England has resulted in a consistent strain on the worlds best players which can not only impact in the quality of play but the product as a whole.
Whilst difficult to balance with completely separate and commercialised ventures such as the aforementioned tournaments, a compromise to the volume of cricket being played must be carefully constructed to ensure that player welfare, along with the welfare of the game as an entity can be maintained.
David Warner, hero of the 2021 T20 World Cup Final for Australia was dropped by his IPL franchise only months before the tournament got underway. Warner’s pedigree at the summit of the shortened format of the game has been unquestionable, however the impact of playing an ever-increasing schedule of competitive cricket has undoubtedly taken its’ toll on one of the worlds deadliest batsman.
With the travel and time commitments that often accompany Cricket tours all over the world, the physical and mental well-being of the athletes that are involved should be at the forefront of any potential calendar alterations, far ahead of the financial ramifications of saturating an international program that has seen constantly evolving parameters in recent times.
In doing this, the great players of this generation, such as India captain Virat Kohli, will not have to make the decision to retire from formats of the game, as he did so at the end of the recent T20 World Cup. Kohli cited his extensive workload as the reason for his retirement at the age of 32; a clear an decisive response to the ever-increasing demands on the modern day cricketer.