Steven Spielberg presents… ICC World Twenty20
I have never watched a Steven Spielberg movie. Certainly, I have seen excerpts, the plastic fin in Jaws, ET advertising BT. I know Spielberg’s oeuvre is there. I’m aware when he adds to it. But I have never felt the need to immerse myself in it. I have found that any conversation about one of his movies can be very effectively halted by pointing out what I’ve just explained: my not watching his films seems to trump, conversationally, the films themselves.
For Spielberg in cricket, read T20. I have never watched a professional T20 game from start to finish – domestic or international, in the flesh or on screen (although, I did see 21 overs of an Eleven11 contest last week). Recently, however, I’ve found the self-disclosure isn’t as effective socially – people don’t care if I haven’t watched it, and navigate around my conversational ice-berg (I’ve not seen Titanic either… not that Spielberg directed it) with references to the dynamic fielding, awesome striking, etc. Moreover, the cricket I do love now seems to have some reliance upon T20 in a way that US indie films never had a financial or artistic debt to Spielberg.
I have some catching up to do. As part of my preparation for the T20 WC, I have been researching some of the features that make T20 a unique cricket format. This is what I have discovered:
The name: we all know that T20 is the creation of marketeers, but did you know that it was initiated by a firm of opticians keen to shift its reputation for providing products for bookish, sedentary types? The plan was for a multi-sport campaign, but a poor choice of pilot – boxing – led to its abandonment and the company remains mired in legal action after its hard wear frames couldn’t withstand a super flyweight’s jab. That left the coast clear for cricket.
Those rankings: Australia are placed 10th in the ICC’s T20 rankings. Rather than probe the calculations behind the rankings, I’d suggest supporters of Australia’s adversaries screen print and keep for posterity the page on the ICC website. England fans can tuck the sheet alongside the famous photo of the Munich scoreboard from the 2001 Football World Cup qualifier:
They should also remember that Germany were finalists one year later and England lost in the quarter-finals.
Music and dancing girls: this is an innovation insisted upon by cricket tradionalists. The aim is, immediately a wicket falls, to divert attention from the ugly, sub-baseball swipe that occasions a high proportion of T20 dismissals. In a charming, artistic way, it succeeds.
Slower-ball bouncers: the cricket equivalent of plastic. Invented through a combination of clumsiness and inquisitiveness, it has been lifted from the laboratory waste pipe to become an essential part of modern bowling. Some of these deliveries are so slow that the dancing girls are up and jiving before the batsman’s sucker punch dismissal is complete.
Change-up: fancy name for the medium pace stock ball delivered after serving up a meze of slow-ball bouncers, scrambled seam Yorkers and filthy full-tosses.
The scoop: a triumph of capitalism. T20 was quickly saturated with commercial messages. Advertisers looking for more ad space were forced to think outside of the box – but when that idea was shelved as too risqué for any of cricket’s traditional markets – other niche areas of the player’s kit were colonised. The under-side of the toe of the bat came under scrutiny. All that was needed was a shot that would expose it as a medium to the masses. Enter the scoop.
My slow adoption of cricket’s fastest growing format may have you label me a dinosaur – fine, just don’t make me watch Jurassic Park.