The skeptics have been proved wrong, and somehow my premonitions have come correct. Twenty20, a bastardized version of cricket invented in England to stem a terminal decline in the game (worsened by their national team's travails), and shunned by the powerhouse BCCI as the more established forms are virtually an entertainment monopoly in India, has really caught on. We won our first World Championship of Cricket in more than two decades, a feat which will possibly elude the fab five of Sachin, Anil, Sourav, Rahul, and VVS.
The inaugural ICC World Twenty20 was a raging success, accentuated by the complete flop-show, which the Aussies won under darkness five months back. The fact that the Aussies lost comprehensively to both the first-round failures from the ODI version, India and Pakistan, who went on to play the thrilling final, was divine justice. Ricky Ponting and Imran Khan, representing two different generations of leadership, still feel Twenty20 is a game of luck. But as the two fantastically close matches which India and Pakistan played showed, any form of the game, where the balance between bat and ball is maintained, is the most enchanting. In recent Test cricket, played mostly on dead tracks, teams that make first use of a batting wicket, can completely out-bat the opponent (a favourite Indian trick). If the wicket has something for the bowlers, not only will be out-batting difficult, but the opposition can come back anytime. And as Harsha Bhogle puts it, ultimately it is all about getting runs and taking wickets. Umar Gul showed that the best dot ball gets a batsman out
I consider myself a connoisseur, and still rate the Test victory against England as the pinnacle, over this World Cup triumph. The reason why Dhoni's rather than Dravid's victory got a gala motorcade (to compare, Ajit Wadekar had a similar victory parade in 1971 after India's maiden cricketing conquest of England, by an identical margin to Dravid's) is the change of generation - the frantic energy of a vibrant version of the game, played over only three hours, and capturing the imagination of the general public much more than Mandira ever managed.
Like Michael Atherton, I expect the biggest worry from T20 to be for ODIs. I strongly feel there are too many meaningless ODIs being played (not to say that if Australia visits India for 15 T20s, played over 10 days in 2011, I will be elated). Yet, T20 can play the role - of expanding the game, becoming an Olympic sport, competing with more entertainment-friendly sport like football (any surprise a Champion's League is planned around T20 now) - that ODIs were supposed to do, but over an 8-hour duration, never really could.
In a fast-paced contemporary life, more traditional and relaxed sports like Golf, Chess and Test cricket will always be an oddity. The trick is to balance art with commerce, with a form of entertainment that supports the real stuff. High-quality Test cricket is a must, all other forms - T20, first-class - should support it. To elaborate, Misbah got a six when he played straight. When he slog-swept a delivery he could have tackled in the same fashion, he lost the World Cup
The strongest counter-argument for T20 came when Daniel Vettori, a spin bowler whose supreme skill in the tournament showed how bowlers can dominate the game, hoped that the version does not establish itself. The strongest argument for came when my disappointed mother called me up to discuss India's below-par batting performance in the final. Within an hour-and-a-half, she sent me a congratulatory message.