x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Newest format is a top 20 hit

Having started life in 2003 as a mid-season curiosity to boost ticket sales in the English County Championship, Twenty20 cricket soon spawned off-shoots all over the globe.

Having started life in 2003 as a mid-season curiosity to boost ticket sales in the English County Championship, Twenty20 cricket soon spawned off-shoots all over the globe. It quickly became apparent the format was one which inspired fans both new and old and a host of rival tournaments were launched to cash in on the brave new world.

A hastily convened Twenty20 World Cup took place in 2007 and if that failed to inspire in the way it perhaps should have, then its winners - a youthful Indian side led by their dashing captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni - were apt ones. For it was India, jostled along by the irrepressible Lalit Modi, who had best grasped the true possibilities of the newest format of the game. Modi's Indian Premier League (IPL) was large-than-life limited-overs cricket.

The attendant media frenzy was electric, a fact which only intensified when the drama's cast list - think Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Shahid Afridi, Graeme Smith - was revealed. Those expecting fireworks soon got them with New Zealand strokemaker Brendon McCullum carting his way to a frenzied 158 in the opening match and Mike Hussey reaching three figures in just 54 punishing balls.

But, in a development which would surely please some of the competition's critics, it did not turn into a wanton demolition of hapless bowlers. In fact, with Sohail Tanvir helping himself to 22 wickets at a shade over 12 and Amit Mishra boasting a strike rate of a wicket every 10 deliveries, there were some notable achievements with the ball. The intense competition and high stakes also contributed to the growing repertoire of run-saving devices in a bowler's armoury. A variety of slower balls and late, disguised bouncers were used to great effect as batsmen found themselves - happily for any watching purists - unable to heave every other ball into the stands.

But in many ways, the genuine value of a competition can be gauged by its winners. Rajasthan Royals spent the least money on glitz and glamour and instead invested large reserves of faith in good old fashioned cricketing excellence by appointing Warne as their captain and coach. The Aussie wizard duly delivered the title and struck a blow for the sport's core values. That the other stars of the 59-match event included proven veterans of the world stage - the Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath and the Sri Lanka all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya appeared in the upper reaches of their respective averages - alongside unheralded tyros like Shaun Marsh and Manpreet Gony is testament to the IPL.

More of the same next year - as well as the prospect of a globetrotting jaunt to England for a handful of games - and the competition will be well on the way to being one of the most thrilling items on the cricketing calendar. With every other major Test playing nation represented in droves last time around and only the lonely figure of Hampshire journeyman Dimitri Mascarenhas flying the flag for England, the possibility of the captain Kevin Pietersen and top all-rounder Andrew Flintoff taking part this time only serves to whet the appetite even further.

There are, as always, administrative details to be thrashed out, but with England's senior stars likely to command huge pay cheques and the coaching hierarchy increasingly keen to improve their team's limited-overs acumen, it looks likely that the ECB's top men will be available for at least two weeks. Away from the IPL, highlights for next year include India touring New Zealand and the West Indies, England hosting Australia and the second ICC World Twenty20. sports@thenational.ae