I have always been sceptical of the idea that Cricket is a “team” sport. Sure, the sport is played by groups of people wearing similar clothes. But, unlike Basketball, Rugby, Football (any variation) or soccer, it always just seemed like a group of individuals contributing to a joint result, rather than a group of individuals working together to execute plays and whatnot. There aren’t any “alley oops” or set plays. No one worries about team chemistry or coordinating skill and fitness types. Cricket players are easily swapped in and out of a team whenever they go through slumps or misbehave. Cricket teams can win even without everyone pulling their weight, and teams can go on to be the best teams in the world (for prolonged periods), even when some members are completely unfit (Shane Warne). Could any of these things happen in Basketball, Rugby, Football or Soccer? No. Because those are team games. Those games require people to work together to execute game plans.
But, watching the Twenty20 World Cup, I now realize that Twenty20 is even less of a team sport than the larger forms of the game. Whereas in the larger forms you need at least few individuals to contribute with the bat and the ball (after all, Sachin Tendulkar was unable to single-handedly beat the combined might of Australia’s Legendary late 90’s early 00’s teams), Twenty20 games can be, and often are, completely dominated and taken over by one person. A couple of big hits, one quick fifty, a quick burst of wickets, that’s all it takes. Shane Watson, Chris Gayle, Anjelo Matthews, all of these players continually win games almost by themselves. I have lost count of how many times Shane Watson won the man of the match award during this competition. And I have often wondered whether the West Indies would do better or worse if the team was just Chris Gayle and a bunch of Cardboard cut outs (also Dwayne Bravo, I heart Dwayne Bravo).
I like Twenty20. I think it is a fun spectacle, and will allow Cricket to stay relevant in a new, fast-paced, age. However, I do worry that this new form will allow the individual to be more and more important than the team. As the game gets shorter more importance will be placed on one individual effort. One good knock is more important than one good innings. One Chris Gayle will be more important than loading a team up with respectable batting talent talent. One Dale Steyn will be more important than a complete bowling attack. One Anjelo Matthews will be more important than a few proper specialists. Twenty20 is as much an individual sport as a team sport.
Originally posted @ Sakalabujan Magazine