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Cash, bang, wallets!

Jonathan Agnew | 10:34 UK time, Saturday, 14 June 2008

Guess what: Twenty20 can produce flat, one-sided matches too!

After a week of hype and multi-million pound pledges, this game never got going. It's a good job this wasn't Sir Allen Stanford's introduction to Twenty20 because he would have kept his cash to himself.

The pitch gave the bowlers just enough early help to make batting tricky, but New Zealand didn't help themselves. Brendon McCullum barely faced a ball in the opening exchanges, finally perishing to Luke Wright for 24 in the 11th over! Graeme Swann bowled beautifully to take 2 for 21 and Stuart Broad 2 for 17.

Ian Bell went some way to convince doubters that he has the innovation in his game to open the batting - he played some classy strokes in his 60 - while Wright has a tremendous eye and brings an all-round package.

Stuart Broad celebrates a wicket

So, with just one more Twenty20 game to go before announcing their team for the Stanford match, England were not stretched in the least. The players claim that they haven't talked about the trip to Antigua, but don't believe a word of it!

I have to be honest and admit that the more I think about that match, the more uncomfortable I feel about it.

I cannot imagine what the England dressing room will be like when the 12 names are revealed. That would leave three, and possibly four players sitting there entirely cut out of the deal. They will receive nothing despite all their work in the nets and at fielding practice: how divisive will that be? How on earth, in reality, will the selection be made? Can Geoff Miller really be expected to decide who becomes rich overnight and who does not?

This is supposed to be a team: an England team. Sorry. I don't like it.

It made me smile to see an official ECB advert in the match programme at Old Trafford. 'Three Squads, One Team' it reads, implying unity. Yet one team - predominately containing the younger inexperienced players - will be making a small fortune. England's senior captain, Michael Vaughan, will get nothing.

Three cheers also for Mark Robinson, the Sussex coach, who, witheringly, put the Champions League into perspective. "How can we take it seriously when we don't know who we can play, or if we will qualify for the Champions League even if we win the Twenty20," he said.

Quite right, too. English counties are being used in the battle between the BCCI and the 'rebel' ICL, and they need to stand together in refusing to have their selection policy dictated by India.


  • Comment number 1.

    i think the stanford international is a great idea. we've invented a new format and its being exploited to its full extent. that's good business. i think it will be the main format in the future, in particular for the emerging nations.

    agnew, i appreciate your concerns as the old, fuddy duddy purist you are. i also love test cricket to bits but i think your blogs imply that stanford is out to crush it. it's simply not the case. he simply has no interest; and whilst he respects the traditions, he is out to promote t20 without discriminating the other two formats.

    it seems you take a shine to stanford as much as you do to jimmy anderson!

  • Comment number 2.

    Oram's injury would'nt matter anyhow;the Kiwi's are burned out

  • Comment number 3.

    Sadly I can't really see the administrators of the game in England having the spine to stare down the BCCI.

  • Comment number 4.

    It was a clinical England performance. You can't say more than that because New Zealand were not allowed to do more. However, given that New Zealand's recent T20 record is dire, we don't know just how good this win was, although we would certainly have heard if we had lost.

    England are beginning to do what we have always wanted them to do: beat sides that we are expected to beat and are beginning to do something that we have not done so often and that is blow them away. It won't mean anything if we lose to South Africa, but the side is going in the right direction. Of course, if we win the ODIs against New Zealand and then beat South Africa in the Tests we will hear that both sides were rubbish and that the results are meaningless. Funny that things won't look that way if we lose!

    There is enough going on to make England fans feel really optimistic, especially seeing how it's only the West Indian lack of belief that they CAN win that is stopping them beating a struggling Australian side. However, the next two series are the toughest challenges that the new-look England side can get. If we can win one series and avoid defeat in the other you will have to believe that this is a side that can really go places.

  • Comment number 5.

    cant tell you how sick i am of the purists slagging of twenty20. we know they dont like it, but they cant change it, and everyone else seems to love it. just listen to the different attitudes of agnew, martin-jenkins and the like and phil tufnell.

    personally, i think its a good idea. it allows more young people to become interested in cricket and that can only be a good thing.

    moreover, the main aim for the vast majority of cricketers will be to play in test matches. they still are and will always be the thing players aspire to.

    also, re: michael vaughan getting a pittance, even though he is the test captain. this is unforatunate, but he is no good a one day cricket. and, one day cricket has more money in it for people, so players will be paid more.

    so stop slagging it off! this game simply acts as a run in to test cricket at the moment, and hopefully will stay that way, even with the lucrative deals around.

  • Comment number 6.

    The so called "Champions League" wont count one jot and viewing figures will inevitably tail away etc, if teams can't select who they wish - is this a financial form of apartheid ? - and also all major test playing nations are included.

  • Comment number 7.

    What no one has actually pointed out is that if the BCCI have their way, only 3 English side are eligible for the Champions League: the other 15 are just wasting their time.

    We face being banned from Test cricket if we refuse to play Zimbabwe (funnily enough, I don't see India and Pakistan playing them much, either). If we lose this battle too we might as well give up., or accept that cricket is going to split on racial lines. It is noticeable that our partners in the Stanford 20-20 tournaments are going to be West Indies and New Zealand: two sides who are missing out big time under the new regime of World cricket.

  • Comment number 8.

    I totally agree, and when it comes to team selection what if someone like swann for example, who has been involved in the one day set up for a good while now is excluded because the pitch doesnt suit spin. someone like tremlett who has played a handfull of games in the past could come in for one game and make a fortune. the whole thing is ridiculous. the other point is, what are kids gonna be thinking? they could be a payer like ricky ponting, one of the best batsmen of our generation, an average of 58, or become a slogger like afiridi and make twice the money. the whole thing is a joke and test cricket will slowly be put to the back of the mind which is a crying shame

  • Comment number 9.

    Sorry but here's another fuddy duddy slagging off 20/20 cricket. Followers of county T20 will know that the pattern of last night's game is quite typical. A side losing early wickets does not have time to re-build an innings. If that side is batting first then they fail to post a competitive total and the game is virtually over by half time. If you look at this year's T20 cup results only one or two of the games have been remotely close.

    T20 is currently a novelty, if it became the only cricket on offer the defects of the format will become more apparent and spectators and viewers will quickly become bored.

    As for the Stanford game Aggers is right to be worried - it is an obscenity. If the millions had been riding on last nights game those England players who neither batted or bowled would have picked up 500k for a spot of fielding. How will that make Michael Vaughn feel? The only reason Stanford has insisted on the prize money going to the players is to give a competitive edge to what would otherwise be an exhibition match.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think a better idea would be to award the prize money to the cricketing board of either country rather than the players. The money could the be used to develop grass roots cricket to get more young players interested and playing the game.

  • Comment number 11.

    Watched first 20:20 game yesterday Surrey v Kent, yes it was good fun, but not a real cricket contest. More a batsmans slogfest with some good fielding,

    However, good for promoting the game of cricket to a new audience providing they do go on to watch the longer forms of the game.

    As for Agnews comments cannot agree more.

    Test cricket has been going long enough and seen off other shorter forms of the game and will still be around when 20:20 has run its course.

  • Comment number 12.

    Does anyone remember the WSC fiasco and the effect that had on Cricket in general? I do not feel that 20Twenty or however it is jazzed up should be mentioned in the same catagory as Cricket.
    It is purely television entertainment and will become a monster on its own.
    No professional aspiring Test Cricket player will ever be successful at 20Twenty in that the money will determine who gets too play not the ability of the player.
    Michael Vaughan will never make money from 20Twenty because he is a pure cricketer and will never be good TV.
    I would also doubt that if Kevin Pietersen dedicated himself to pure cricket his one day and therefore TV appeal would soon deteriorate.
    Do not confuse the game with TV entertainment. The more TV in the guise of BCCI/ICL/ICC/CA/and any TV company who values their ratings and advertising revenues will support 20Twenty over Cricket. I feel that the game is at a crossroads that will send the two games in different directions and now glossing over of the greed will change peoples opinion.
    The future cricket will be left to those who cannot command a 20Twenty contract and the Ashes will still be bigger.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm afraid Agnew's so anti Twenty20 he is losing his objectivity as a reporter. He keeps banging on about preserving the preminence of test cricket but people vote with their wallets. Wake up and smell the coffee Aggers!

  • Comment number 14.

    Excellent article Aggers, as per usual. Stanford's deal is hugely misguided and the ECB's decision to agree to the contract will, I am in doubt, backfire on them before too long. Creating rifts within the England team just months before the Ashes will be catastrophic for England's prospects. I would even go as far as to hope that England do not win the match which would alleviate the issues to an extent.

    As for attempting to capture the American market is it really feasible given the current baseball saturation? To my mind Twenty20 cricket and baseball are roughly identical; the two cannot co-exist; one will always dominate the other.

    Test cricket is the only manifesation of cricket that I acknowledge; and it has the potential to capture the public's imagination - Headingly '81, Edgbaston '97, the summer of 2005 are all testament to that.

    However cricketers are as much rational humans as anyone else - the reality is that cricketers will hone their skills to the Twenty20 market as that is where they stand to make a fortune, to the detriment of test cricket.

    Pieterson's remarks that Twenty20 is improving Test cricket is an embarrasment; Test cricket is about a classical duel between bat and ball, not some American-esque popcorn sport.

  • Comment number 15.

    Top article aggers, as usual.

    the two main points that you highlight are the ones I have been finding impossible to fathom. people are being made millionaires overnight, and it is in the hands of the selectors to play god and decide who. unity has to be affected, for example as you say vaughan, a respected and influential figure in english cricket and a key test player will see nothing of the rewards. however, the strict and narrow - and fair perhaps - response to that will be simple, given the situation, a selection of 13 has to be made and they have to be the 13 who are most likely to win us this game...sentiment cant enter into it, i think the players will understand that its a difficult decision for the selectors, and that they just have to accept the decision.

    more worrying aggers and im sure everyone will agree, is our counties having their 20 20 selections - a format WE invented - influenced by Mr Modi and all the other viciously capitalist folks at the BCCI, who will willingly obliterate anything that comes between them and the success of their product. worrying.

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree that there are some troubling elements to this proposal, and that it looks a bit as if the ECB has panicked, after being predictably slow off the mark as T20 exploded.

    However, there is a simple solution to the particular problem of one XI getting all the money and other, significant players (including, perhaps, injured players) getting nothing: the team can do what championship-winning teams do in the USA with their take -- vote on how to split the prize money beyond the actual winning team. Surely Stanford can't control how they dish out their own winnings; and is it too much to hope for that good sense would prevail, thereby preventing terrible and silly internecine strife?

    As for Modi trying to dictate terms, surely the ICL matter is headed for the courts, where he will find it very hard to win.

    But, when all is said and done, no one should forget that the IPL has been a great success, that it's expanded cricket's fan base, and that it was extremely well run. A little less hubris about it from the founder-nation would not come amiss, I feel.

  • Comment number 17.

    Perhaps test central contracts should be on performance related.

    ie if you get 0 runs, you get £0 money

    £1000 every run

    Double century £200K, Ton £100k

    Wickets £20k each wicket per bowler

    Catches £10,000 per catch

    Runouts £15,000

  • Comment number 18.

    ExPat, was the IPL so well run and did it massively increase the fan base? There are widely differing opinions, even on the sub-continent. Certainly there is considerable annecdotal evidence that although the league itself attracted widespread attention, the games were little watched outside India, Pakistan and Bangladesh: there was no great new audience outside because very few people outside had easy access to the games.

    Obviously I am not an Indian and do not live in India, but while there was plenty of curiosity about the tournament at the start, helped by McCallum's incredible innings, by the 20th and the 30th game it became "just another match" to the people outside the sub-continent.

    What is evident is that the 50-over form of the game has become so stale that it was only a matter of time before something better came along. If 50-over ODIs die, not many people will mourn them because they were killed by the sort of overkill that will eventually see T20 burn itself out. Even in England there is evidence that the T20 craze is beginning to wane, with some disappointing attendances for some games.

    It's easy to forget that it was Stanford who was the inventor of this kind of tournament with his Stanford 20-20: a highly focussed competition that is bringing cricket to a new audience by involving new outposts and that, with its knock-out format, ensures that each game is meaningful. Not many fans in Mumbai or Sydney may tune in to watch "American Virgin Islands v Barbuda" in the first round, but for hundreds of cricketers around the Carribean the chance to win through to play their idols in the later rounds is every bit as attractive as a potential tie at Anfield is for a non-League side hoping to reach the 3rd Round of the FA Cup.

    The Champions League is a genuinely exciting format because it will be meaningful all round the world, at least if properly organised, with all sides allowed the chance to qualify and not aimed purely at an Indian domestic audience. The Stanford matches are an attempt to give players without massive IPL contracts a slice of the pie, something that it is only human that they should want. The problem will be to stop greed taking over. The fact that the initiative probably irritates the BCCI as much as the ICL does is not in itself reason to object to it: some of the issues that Jon Agnew points to are more alarming though. When greed is allowed to take over, as it has in the IPL-ICL dispute, problems are going to follow: let's hope that this initiative avoids them.

  • Comment number 19.

    I agree with what bigdoodoo implied above, in as much as t20 is not cricket. No cricket fan could really have enjoyed watching Luke Wright slogging at everything last night, it was horrible to watch. I do believe, sadly that t20 will be detremental to the rest of cricket as players will be encouraged to play like that, but it was poor. How can this take priority above test matches or 50/40 over games?

  • Comment number 20.

    Well Jonathan .. Twenty 20 can produce flat, one sided game but what about Test Cricket and one day Cricket... look at Cricket World cup 2007 they played 59 or 60 games how many of those were exciting and how many were one sided ??? If people love test cricket then how come around the world you dont see full stadiums in every test... unlike twenty 20... stop whinning like or not ... twenty 20 is the next Cricket ....

  • Comment number 21.

    third_umpire: Twenty20 is still new and exciting a whole new audience. But this will change over time, and it audiences will start to drop off - maybe sooner that yuo think too!

    Saturation in any sport tends to shorten its duration of massive appeal and this will probably be true for T20 as well.

    I hope the money that the ECB makes from Stanford will be invested in grass roots and used to keep Test cricket alive, but somehow I'm not convinced.

  • Comment number 22.

    I can't agree about Michael Vaughan being paid a pittance... apparently he is a very rich man with houses all over the world. How do you think he got that - playing chess? It's going to give someone else the chance to make a mint.

    If we played the best T20 players then oldies like Hick and Ramps would be chosen, not just the young uns you mention. Why not?

  • Comment number 23.

    Michael Vaughan needs to come out and say:

    "If you play in the Stanford matches, you will not be picked for the Test side"

    That will solve all problems!

  • Comment number 24.

    As Notorious B.I.G. once sang: Mo' money, mo' problems. (Mo' means 'more') Stanford clearly has more money than sense, though.

  • Comment number 25.

    I must have a mental block somewhere. Put simply, I can't understand the Twenty20 idea being "entertainment"! No thought or strategy required, whack-the-ball-anywhere mentality, and I'm not even sure the fielders do any better for all this free catching practice, because they sure haven't turned into Rod Marsh-Alan Knott clones as a result ... Has the average attention span really diminished so much that even 50 overs per side are too long for people to be able to concentrate? Why've these people deserted football - would've thought it ideal for them, plus it's never off TV!

  • Comment number 26.

    The problem I have with T20 is that regardless of the time of day it is played, it seems that the team winning the toss have an enormous advantage as it seems that on many occasions batting first can play the the other team out of the game; there is no time to structure a reply as in the the longer one day format. So scrap the coin toss and let the VISITING team have the option to bat first or second

    What is close? Run difference? Run difference as a percentage of total runs scored? Spare balls left in innings once target achieved? It needs some definition just as the NFL do with their stats of games decided in OT, by three points or less and by seven points or less

    I still maintain cricket authorities need to seriously look at 40 over cricket again:

    1. Start early enough to leave 1-1.5 hours available to avoid D/L (incidentally why the heck can there not be a little bit of flexibility as well in T20?)

    2. One fielder in a mini-arc behind square on the off-side at all times in a catching position - slip/gully/fly slip/short third/short point with a maximum of four players out after 15 overs so there are two unguarded boundaries in order to better award a clean strike. Indeed modify the rules to allow three fielders out from the beginning of the innings or even scrap over-restrictions altogether. Thus the fielding side could defend both boundaries behind square and have a sweeper on the cover boundary from the top of the innings

    3. Allow the bowlers 9 rather than 8 overs each so in theory the fifth bowler (injury, state of pitch or whatever) only has to bowl four overs. This would redress the balance in favour of the bowlers and minimise the opportunities for a slogfest against the second and third change

  • Comment number 27.

    An easy wasy for the ECB to ensure the message goes out that Test's are where it's at is simple. They pick the test team for the Stanford match. That way cricketers who wan't to earn money will need to learn to play the game properly, not just be good at slogging!

    I know the 20-20 "specialists" will moan but as they hardley existed a year ago, and were also awful at the world cup who cares?

  • Comment number 28.

    I can understand people's fears, but it strikes me that we have been here before. It's not so long ago (70-80's) that people were worrying that one day cricket was going to finish off test cricket. It didn't happen.

    30 years on and it now seems that the 50 over game is more under threat from T20 than the tests. No amount of money to the players will change people's opinions that test cricket is the purest examination of a players character and ability. Crickets will be better off financially, but they will all still harbour desires to play at the highest level.

  • Comment number 29.

    There wasn't an avalanche of complaints when the Test team cashed in after the 2005 Ashes win and the ODI specialists got nothing, so why such a furore when it's the other way round?

  • Comment number 30.

    Please cricket lovers, and the English amongst you especially, learn how to spell Michael Vaughan's name! V-a-u-g-h-A-n!!!

    Thank you, and long live test cricket. Sadly, greed seems to prevail. Surely someone else can see the irony of pro cricketers, having spent years honing their skills for test cricket, now getting paid stupid sums of money to play the type of game they would have played when they were 10 years old?

  • Comment number 31.

    There are a few on here challenging Aggers on this article and prclaiming his hatred for Twenty20 is affecting his objectivity. Well ...

    Since this isn't a news page, but a Blog, you should expect the writer to be giving more of an opinion piece than a straghtfoward objective piece more suited to the news pages.

    Moreover, Aggers gives and answer to those who argue that Twenty20 cricket is much better than the other forms because it isn't flat, dull and one-sided. That is an argument I have heard from a number of people, and is just bunkum.

    Finally, I don't see anything in this article overly impugning Twenty20 or its followers. Aggers' point is not against T20 itself, but against the divisive principle of a small portion of (what is supposedly) a team being massively rewarded for one, winner takes all, game.

    Unlike other sports, cricket teams require three sets of players (with some overlap of course): first class, one day and twenty20. If you reward one set of those players disproportionately you are only storing up problems for the future as far as I can see.


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