The Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) blasted off last week Wednesday with much glitz and fanfare, as the defending champions, the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) hosted the St. Lucia Stars at the Queen’s Park Oval in a night game which commenced at 8:00 pm. The TKR wasted little time in disposing of the hapless Stars, who extended their losing streak from last season, where they failed to record a single victory in ten outings.
Over at the National Stadium, at Providence, sellout crowds at the National Stadium, stomped their feet, jumped and waved pennants and flags, and yelled and screamed to their hearts’ delights at the three Twenty 20 (T20) games between Thursday and Sunday, as their beloved Guyana Amazon Warriors notched two victories.
On Friday night, at the Queen’s Park Oval, the TKR compiled a CPL record score of 223/6, which stood for all of two hours. The Jamaica Tallawahs appeared to be dead and buried at 41/5, before Andre “Superman” Russell, who was dropped on one, took matters into his hands. At first, it looked like the Tallawahs might be able to restore some pride, perhaps make it close, and then there was an improbable chance for a win. In a swashbuckling innings of 121 not out, Superman, aided by his fellow Jamaican and training partner, Kennar Lewis (52 off 35 balls), blasted 13 sixes, while leading his side to victory with three balls to spare. Russell’s CPL record equalling plunder of a hundred off of forty balls, stunned the huge home town crowd into silence, whilst the millions around the world watching on television, relished a game where records tumbled all night.
Yes, the CPL, now in its sixth season, is going from strength to strength, and still growing in popularity. Over the last two months, the West Indies hosted five Test matches, three against Sri Lanka and two versus Bangladesh, and the sum total of those in attendance at the five games probably could have fit comfortably into any one stand where the CPL matches are being played, and there would have been seats remaining.
The recurring question is; is Test cricket dying? To the purist, the anthropologist, and traditionalist, the answer is a resounding no, as they cling desperately to the fast eroding pastime. Perhaps, the wrong question is being pitched. Maybe, we should be asking, why is the T20 format so appealing? Why is it considered the fastest growing sport? Why are corporate sponsors so anxious to hop on board this runaway train? Why does this game – some researchers view this as an entirely different game to cricket- appeal to the millennial audience, those born between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s to early 2000s? Why does the game attract such a large female following, most of whom will change the channel once Test cricket comes on television? Why is the younger generation, generation Z, gravitating to the game?
One astute observer has proposed that we are in a New Age of Thinking. It’s a different world, a different time and a new age of thinking has snuck up on us without us actually being aware that the whole world has, and is, rapidly changing right in front of our eyes, and the T20 game perfectly exemplifies the approach to life in this new age.
The incessant action created by the kaleidoscope of coloured uniforms, cheerleaders, music, entertainers, etc. creates a continuous flow of energy often deflecting away from the audience the fact that they are at a cricket game. The savvy television producers have built on Australian Kerry Packer’s Channel Nine fabled production innovations and coupled it with the revolutionary ideas of other producers who converted such previously staid past times as snooker, poker and darts into much watched television, often rooting the audience less they miss something of importance. There never seems to be a dull moment in a T20 forecast which seems to be carefully blended and expertly delivered.
Commentators are often referring to the constantly changing situations, often captured by the cameras panning to the players’ shed where coaches, with clipboards for charting every aspect of the game, appear to be in constant discussion. The West Indies are often accused of adopting a cavalier approach to the game, a claim refuted by their coach in the last ICC T20 Championship triumph. Phil Simmons, who has acknowledged the importance data mining played in that victory, painstakingly poured over the computer printouts with the team’s statistician, every day of the tournament.
As the game continues to evolve and the quests for competitive advantages increase, the compilation and analysis of data will likewise increase. This number crunching, a staple of baseball, will of course attract another dimension of fan. The thirst for numbers will only see the further application of wearable technology in the game. Expect players to be fitted with monitoring devices to track data ranging from their fielding efficiency to their running between the wickets.
The T20 game arrived with a new age of thinking and has moved past Test cricket as the product in high demand at the moment. Its willingness to unshackle deep rooted traditions and embrace new innovations has propelled it along at an electrifying pace.
With the millennials coming of age, can their interest in the shortened format be transferred to the Test arena? The ICC, the gatekeepers of Test cricket certainly have their work cut out. How are they going to apply this new age of thinking to Test cricket? Time is running out.