20/20 and Canada's future
24 February 2005
Don Bradman visited Babe Ruth in his private box at Yankee Stadium in 1932. The New York press captioned a photograph of these two legendary 'ball playing' personalities as "The two greatest hitters of the moving ballÓ. The meeting was possible because of the happenstance that the Australian cricketers were having a 'rest' day from their tour of Canada and the USA, and 'The Babe' was injured.
Both 'professionals' were renowned in their particular spheres of influence. It is fitting to note that Bradman was prescient with his comment about his experience watching baseball from 'The Babe'sÓ personal box, for he was quoted as saying that "Cricket could learn from baseball". What he was referring to was that the major league game of that era only took 2 hours to complete, which made it viable for the 'working man' (woman?) to be a regular spectator.
Seventy three years later it is fitting to note that the first 'International' Twenty20 cricket match should see Australia as the winners in front of 28,000 Kiwi spectators. 'The Don' wrote every day, mostly about cricket. Most certainly he would have written about this innovation in the cricket world.
In our particular cricket world, Canada has, to some extent, adopted the Twenty20 concept. That may be something of an exaggeration for the only policy document to hand is the one produced by the Toronto School Board. The policy lays out the 'playing rules' which limits the cricket matches to be 20 overs for each team, and that at least four players from each school shall be called upon to bowl.
The developing interest in the concept of Twenty20 cricket has been accepted by youthful cricketers in the school system, because that is all that is available. Most cricket clubs in Canada do not have 'youth' teams. Much of this is probably related to the primal laws of competition for limited resources. Some of the Toronto fixtures for the 2005 season appear to have been reduced from 50 overs to 40 overs matches. These will be played in the morning, so that a Fifty50 match can be played by the more senior teams in the afternoon. So much for the interests for junior development within the Toronto & District Cricket.
If we see our Canadian young cricketers being given short shrift, in the developmental stages of their cricket education, does that bode well for the development of cricket in Canada? Should the mature cricketers be encouraged to play Twenty20? Would that produce cricketers who could compete at an international level of Twenty2O? The cricket concept of 'building partnerships' would probably go down the drain. Does everything come down to the concept of "winning"? Is that the row to hoe? Whither goest "the spirit of the game"? Is this a viable direction which will develop players capable of performing in the 50 overs international arena, which is reputed to be the Canadian Cricket Association's aspiration?
Footnote:- Beyond the interest of cricketers within the school system in the GTA, there are numerous informal games in the school yards. A former coach and captain of the Pakistan air force team advised that the language of instruction is English in the cricket playing schools. However, he pointed out that the language of school yard cricket is often Urdu. (Jon Harris).
Copies of the Toronto School Board policy document for cricket are available on request.