Written by the coach of the most successful Australian cricket team and one who is currently coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders, this book gives an insider’s account of the development and launch of the T20 tournament that has already changed international cricket forever. It talks of the glitz and glamour introduced through cheerleaders and celebrity owners, the dramatic player auctions, the excitement of the competition and the shadow of terrorism. Buchanan offers his predictions about the evolution of the game, the rising stars to watch and new innovations for play.
Cricket is a traditional game. With an odd exception or two, it has remained largely unchanged for nearly a century and a half. The bodyline series and the World Series Cricket revolution changed the game in their times; today the IPL (International Premier League) has the potential to usher in even more significant changes to the way the game is played. T20 has become very popular among cricket lovers because of its short duration and the excitement that it generates. While a Test Match can take five days to provide an answer and even a 50-over match up to night hours, T20 has its greatest appeal the speed at which it is played. For instance, it took only 80 exhilarating minutes for McCullum to smash an unbeaten 158 runs from just 73 balls, including an incredible 13 sixes. “The crowd became delirious, TV viewers held enraptured and the owners of the team thrilled. The question had been answered – this was the future of cricket,” says Buchanan.
The IPL has become a social phenomenon taking away the people from shopping malls and movie theatres, off television soaps to watch cricket. Sachin Tendulkar remarks that there has been a shift in the demographics attending the game – it is a social phenomenon as Indians flock to IPL games instead of going to movies. Excitement generated at last year’s IPL semi-finals had to be seen to be believed. “It captured the attention of the whole Indian public,” says the author.
Talking about the much publicised standoff between Harbhajan Singh and the Australian cricketers, the author says Harbhajan is good at “dishing out treatment, lighting low fires, and then finding an appropriate means to camouflage his action.”
On reading further, one finds that the author is rather critical of Indian cricketers, organisers and the public. He says “India is a place of deals: written deals and wheels within wheels. Nothing is as it appears to be. Australians say we will do something and we stick to it, lest we appear unreliable. India, on the other hand, makes statements on the understanding that things will change and therefore so will the commitment. Indians are used to chaos and somehow they manage it, somehow it works.”
According to the author, T20 has the potential to fundamentally change the way cricket is played. Many of the innovations and skill sets required will become standard. His regret is that currently cricket suffers from a systemic problem – we have part-time people (selectors and board members) deciding the careers of full-time professionals. He calls it “ludicrous”
Talking of Sourav Ganguly, the author says that he is a man of fascinating character and a man of contradictions. Psychologists would find him intriguing. He adds that with Ganguly, the dressing room becomes like his kingdom. “It is not so much out of his attitude but because of the reverence and deference shown to him by India and Pakistani players.” He says Sourav is an extremely competitive person and the fight remains in his soul. “I believe we have not seen the last of Sourav Ganguly.”
The author thinks that the future of cricket lies in the subcontinent. Pakistan is in the throes of terrorism but India can proudly show off the IPL to the rest of the world, “over and above what it does internationally and the government will do everything it can to protect it.”
(Orient Paperbacks, 5A/8 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002.)