The timing of Cricket 2.0 is uncanny. Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde’s book, subtitled “Inside the T20 Revolution” is released just as cricket is preparing for an even shorter format, which is set to gain a terrestrial television audience.
However, the authors conclude their impressive 370-page analysis of T20 cricket by saying that The Hundred and T10 leagues (which have also started in the last couple of years) are a gateway to T20 rather than a threat.
Among their other 31 predictions for the Future of T20 is (struggling) batsmen being allowed to retire out, bowlers will cost more at auction than batsmen and teams will have home and away kits and, worryingly, the physique of batsmen will change – and so will the risks of performance-enhancing drugs.
The latter forecast is backed up in a chapter entitled Cheating to Win: Cheating to Lose which highlights the match fixing and use of doping in T20 cricket. With more than 2,100 players in T20 internationals last year it is harder than ever to stop some players being approached.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is front and centre of the book – the league which “changed cricket forever” continues to expand and now has a higher profile than even the T20 World Cup. It is the only T20 league to have its own window free of international fixtures but the authors make clear that most T20 leagues are haemorrhaging cash and “for some leagues to surge to new heights, others may have to flounder”.
Indeed, the Euro T20 Slam, which failed to get off the ground last year, was the third league to be cancelled before its first ball in two years. But the positives vastly outweigh the negatives in the book and there are insightful interviews with the big names.
Chris Gayle described as “the Bradman of the first years of T20 cricket, a sporting giant of his own time” gets a chapter to himself but there are so many interviewees (‘more than 80’) that Wilde’s attempt to name them all at the end is suffixed by the sentence “Sincere apologies to anyone we have unintentionally omitted”. I noted at least three!
AB De Villiers, “batting’s Unicorn”, Brendon McCullum, who scored 158 off 73 balls in the first IPL game, Sunil Narine, who bowled a wicket maiden in a Super Over in the Caribbean Premier League, and the “self-taught” genius that is Rashid Khan – Wisden’s first Leadng T20 Cricketer in the World - give their take on how to play T20 successfully while there is a fascinating chapter on The Finisher with Lance Klusener and Brad Hodge plus an in-depth analysis of why West Indies team won the 2016 T20 World Cup including an interview with Phil Simmons.
England’s 50-over World Cup success also gets a mention because, the authors point out, it was helped significantly by England’s increasing enthusiasm for T20 cricket and their encouragement of their internationals players to join the IPL.
For example, 38 of the 44 who played in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals (England were not involved) had played in the IPL. Within two months of that tournament, the ECB managing director and England coach were sacked, the latter replaced by Andrew Strauss. The sea change saw ODI skipper Eoin Morgan playing in the IPL while England were playing in their next match – “It seems an opportunity that we cannot afford to turn down,” said Strauss.
Four years on and nine of England’s World Cup winning side had played IPL and all 15 squad members in a major T20 league. Significantly, only three of the 22 players in the final had played more BBL and IPL games than Jofra Archer, who Morgan called on to bowl the Super Over.
The story of T20 cricket was an open door for potential authors and not only have Wigmore and Wilde barged through it but have produced an extremely readable and comprehensive history of the format which, as Michael Vaughan says in his foreword is “here to stay” and “only going to get bigger”.