DAVID PYE: Cricket's rethink has made Twenty20 a whole new ball game
12:00pm Friday 13th June 2014 in Sport
THE World Cup has arrived and as of last night the mainstream TV channels are now focused on the stars at one huge summer event – and I am not talking about the latest collection of wannabes on Big Brother.
It may have seemed a more low-key build-up than usual with expectations uncharacteristically realistic surrounding England but the hype will get cranked up now the tournament is finally underway.
And tomorrow night the pubs and clubs around the country will be packed into the early hours as extended bar hours allow punters to watch Roy Hodgson’s boys in their opener against Italy.
It’s not just television that gets taken over by the competition – it is our whole psyche. From fast food adverts on the box to drinks offers in supermarkets; flags and stickers for cars to St George cross branded clothing – not much else will get a look in.
Wimbledon has hardly been mentioned yet, England’s first Test against Sri Lanka is down the pecking order this weekend along with the rugby union side’s clash against the All Blacks and the US Open golf is hardly on anyone’s radar.
Of course, even before our televisually-dominated world, the beautiful game ruled the roost and it was ever thus. That is why other sports need to think more creatively to attract interest.
One such success story has come in cricket in the shape of Twenty20.
When it first burst onto the domestic scene 11 years ago, there were reservations from the traditionalists who feared change would dilute the game. Even the most sceptic, though, must surely have had a rethink.
For a summer sport that was flagging in popularity away from the big Test and one-day matches, cricket is now on the up again.
Last Friday I took advantage of a day off to go to Emirates Old Trafford for a thrilling NatWest T20 Blast clash between Lancashire and Yorkshire and it was a fantastic night in front of a packed ground – albeit the vast majority of us were left disappointed by the outcome.
The idea to play games on Friday evenings looks to be paying off. Okay, so a Roses battle between Lancashire and Yorkshire is always an attractive prospect but to see 16,000 or so attending made for an electric atmosphere.
What better way to start a weekend than watching a few hours of top-class sport while enjoying a few beers in the sun – when it decides to put its hat on that is.
T20 has introduced a whole new audience to the game from families and young children to hen nights and birthday celebrations. The fact you do not need to be engrained in the rules just makes it more accessible to all and with tickets just £15 at their most expensive, it is reasonably priced as well.
Rather than fear the growing beast that is football, cricket has remodelled itself to compete. Some other sports should take note.