x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

T20 cricket could ruin longer version

It is the format of choice, especially in the UAE, but from a more purist point of view I think within a generation it will seriously damage the other formats of the game.

The 20-over game has come a long way since I first played it, in evening league colts cricket for the junior team my father had started at Newhaven CC in Sussex. Now it has become the format of choice for the majority of people and I am coaching a UAE side who have a chance of playing against the likes of Australia, South Africa, India and England at the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.

The chance to appear on the world stage and play against the senior nations remains an aspiration for all the boys and I would be delighted for them if they achieve it. Last year, we just missed out on qualifying for the 50-over version of the World Cup. The fact this is T20, as opposed to ODI cricket, makes no difference at all to the desire of the players. Indeed, this format of the game is where we are most experienced. However, with all due respect to club cricketers, domestic standards are completely different to the skills, expertise, fitness and mental toughness required to succeed at this high level.

It is important to remember the players also have jobs to go to once the cricket is over. I believe the boys, in general, do their best to juggle work commitments with cricket and, of course, their families. As coach, I would ideally have them all present for all practices but this is not realistic, and very rarely in the last nine months have I got to work with the full squad. If we do needed any extra incentive next week, when the qualification tournament takes place in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, we just need to look at the Netherlands.

Last June they shocked everyone when they beat England - and that was only a few months after we had beaten them when we met in the 50-over qualifier in South Africa. That great victory over the Netherlands, which immediately followed a heavy defeat to Kenya, stands out among many satisfying moments during my time with the squad. There have been a number of fine performances by individuals. Such as Naeemuddin Aslam, who made his maiden first-class hundred against Uganda last month, and Qadar Nawaz, who took four for 16 on debut. Both were rewarded for working hard at their game and fitness.

For sheer team effort, though, the most satisfaction came from the four-day victory in Namibia, in the ICC Intercontinental Cup at the end of last year. To see the jubilation on the boys' faces after all their hard work was veryrewarding for me. Now it is back to the 20-over version. I believe T20 as a whole is a good thing. It attracts more people, especially youngsters, to the game. It is easy to understand, dynamic and not too time consuming for spectators who cannot, or would choose not to, devote a whole day to cricket.

More spectators means more revenue which, in turn, should eventually cascade down to grass-roots cricket and more participation in the sport, so completing a positive cycle. However, from a more purist point of view, I think within a generation it will seriously damage the longer versions of the game, including 50-over cricket which has already been removed from English county cricket by the voting chairmen.

I believe the reason given was commercial. It leaves the England and Wales Cricket Board with a problem of producing international ODI players without them being exposed to that format at home. Colin Wells played one-day international cricket for England and has been the head coach of the UAE since last year.
The national team begin their pursuit of a place in the World Twenty20 in the West Indies when they face Kenya on February 9 at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Admission is free.

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