The quest to abbreviate cricket into shorter formats seems increasingly unending. It was as recently as in 2003 – a mere fourteen years ago – that the cricket world was introduced by the ECB to the-then queer new format of twenty-over cricket, termed Twenty20, later shortened further to T20. Masterminded by little-known Stuart Robinson, the T20 format was designed to attract the newer generations to the game of cricket by making it shorter, crisper, and much more fast-paced. Luckily for the ECB – and the dozens of league owners who capitalized on the format during the many years that have followed – the plan worked like a charm.
However, attempts to fiddle with the length of a game of cricket haven’t always been rewarded with as much success as has the T20 format. Take the forty-over cricket format, for example.
The British have been experimenting with the idea of forty-over cricket since as far back as 1969, when they introduced the “John Player Special League” as a second one-day cricket competition partnering the Gillette Cup. After playing around with the length of each cricket match – switching between 50 and 40 overs – the idea was dropped in 1991, before being reincarnated in the year 1999 under the title of the National League, in which each match was forty-five overs long. A few years later, the league transitioned into the 40-over Pro40 tournament. In 2010, the idea was scratched altogether and the ECB 40 competition was introduced in an attempt to combat – or capitalize on – the growing popularity of T20 cricket leagues, and T20 cricket in general.
This last-ditch attempt at reviving 40-over cricket was a failure – like more or less all of its predecessors – and the tournament was scratched out in 2013. T20 cricket, however, lived on, thriving even more than the traditional fifty-over and test match formats.
Perhaps it was the success of the shortest format of cricket that gave the PCB and the owners and sponsors of the Pakistan Super League – with due support from the UAE cricket board, of course – the courage to introduce the idea of a T10 cricket league. That’s right, cricket played over just ten overs per inning – less than the length of a PowerPlay in the ODI format.
At first, the idea strikes one as rather insane. For those accustomed to Test cricket, and, at the very most, traditional one-day cricket, the notion of a single cricketing inning lasting just ten overs – around forty-five minutes – is extremely hard to digest. For purists who felt the T20 cricket blasphemous enough, the announcement of the ten-over format is the cricketing equivalent of an apocalypse. The end must be nigh. Except, that it isn’t.
Although seemingly an attempt at rivalling the popularity of the most popular sport in the world – football – in that the matches would be 90-minutes long and divided into two 45-minute halves, T10 cricket comes across more as a boxing match. It’s main, and thus far seemingly only, selling point is its explosiveness. With a format as short as 10 overs, viewers can expect the pitch to be on fire from the word go. No time for the batsmen to settle down, no time for the bowlers to warm up. Each delivery would be like a round of boxing, with proverbial punches flying between the bowler and the batsman. The unprecedentedly high level of anticipated energy and action that is associated with this newest, shortest format, leaves little wonder that big names from around the world are vying to take part in the upcoming league. Vying? No, they are positively jumping at the chance to capitalize on what they believe is going to be a very exciting form of cricket. Apart from the “usual” Gayles, Morgans, Sangakkaras, Simmons, and Parnells, this newest league format has managed to attract star names from across the border, too, of which Virender Sehwag is one which shouldn’t strike anyone as a wonder. After all, the mastermind behind the league, itself, is deemed to be an Indian businessman, Shajiul Mulk, making it a trans-Sub Continental affair.
The charm does not seem to be restricted to cricketers, either: it appears as though Bollywood stars, too, are finding it increasingly hard to avoid the pull of the T10 format with renowned actor-director-producer Sohail Khan owning a share of the team Maratha Arabians, and actresses Kriti Sanon acting as the team’s ambassador. With the highest representation in the league, Pakistanis own completely or partly all but one – Colombo Lions, which is owned entirely by the Sri Lankan Cricket Board – of the teams participating in the event. The Punjabi Legends, for example, is jointly owned by ex-Pakistani cricketing legend Inzamam-ul-Haq and the CEO of Quality Golf, Pakistan, Intizar-ul-Haq, who also happens to be the ex-cricketer’s brother.
Apart from owning part of a franchise, Inzamam has also verbally expressed very high hopes for the T10 League, believing that the league and the format is “bound to become very popular as it is going to have action from the first delivery.” Another Pakistani legend, Shahid Afridi has recently expressed his excitement for the league. If these – and more – predictions come true, cricket lovers seem to be in for a treat come December 21.