Wisden’s Book of the Year 2020 is…

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For Tim Wigmore and Freddie Wilde this was a very valuable project that took two years to complete. They wanted to write what they wanted to read. With cricket undergoing drastic changes and new versions looking to make every season more delightful than the previous, Cricket 2.0: Inside The T20 Revolution is a welcome addition to the cricket library. Within its pages, readers will find the opinions of players, analysts, administrators, and more.

Wigmore is a journalist by profession and Wilde a cricket data analyst. Both, based out of the U.K, are equipped to debate the technicalities of the game and present the intricacies in a form easy to understand. Forewords by Michael Vaughan and Harsha Bhogle set the tone for this book, replete with anecdotes and match situations that bring alive the shortest version of the game.

Behind the T20 game

“T20 has changed cricket so profoundly since it was created in 2003, and we wanted to read an account bringing this all together, explaining what had changed on and off the field, bringing the characters together and looking at what would come next,” says Wigmore.

Freddie Wilde

Wilde supports his co-author, “Broadly speaking we wanted to improve and elevate the understanding of T20 cricket because the format is so popular, but widely misunderstood. We also wanted to tell the story of the players who have come to dominate the format. They have fascinating human stories. Just because they play T20 doesn’t change that.”

Many are convinced that traditional cricket has taken a beating. “In some ways T20 cricket has forced Test cricket to improve its product. Look at day-night matches, and the introduction of the World Test Championship. One of the big lessons of T20 leagues is that every match matters and has a clear narrative. Sadly this isn’t true for a lot of Test cricket — that needs to change,” says Wigmore.

Wolfe notes, “I am more doubtful than Tim. T20 does provide many valuable lessons for Test cricket and if administrators can adopt them then it may have a fighting chance of coexisting.”

Through the book

The book delves into the possibility of 100-ball cricket, which many believe would make T20 redundant. “It’s a very interesting experiment,” confesses Wignore. “In some ways, the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) is now trying to out-IPL the IPL, by packing a game into a shorter period. It’s a very divisive concept and personally I would have stuck with T20, but it does give England a USP in a very crowded global marketplace.”

Tim Wigmore

Supporting his co-author’s view, Wilde feels, “I don’t see a problem with it. It’s taking the logic of T20 — simplifying and shortening the game — and going slightly further. I think it could have been a T20 competition but political differences in implementing that alongside the existing county T20 competition may have created this new 100-ball game.”

It is generally accepted that cricket has three prominent versions: Tests, ODIs and T20s. Wigmore asserts though, “It’s even more than three — you also have T10, sixes cricket and now the Hundred. But having three at the international level has helped the game be adaptable and appeal to different fans and different countries in different ways, even if it has created difficulties with the congested calendar. If managed properly — which sadly it normally hasn’t been — three formats should be a strength for cricket.”

There are portions in the book that favour the growth of T20. Wigmore insists, “When T20 came along a lot of people predicted that it would be a game of bits-and-pieces players. But quality will out. Look at bowling: you need five high-quality bowlers in your team, and spin bowling is the most effective style. And, as we explore in Cricket 2.0, the tactical thinking in T20 is perhaps the most sophisticated of any format. Ricky Ponting tells us that strategy is more important in T20 than the Test game.”

Wilde adds, “It’s a game played on a cricket pitch, at cricket venues, with cricket equipment and cricket laws and played by cricket players. It is beginning to evolve into its own strand of the sport but it is fundamentally cricket.”

Future perfect?

Speaking on the reluctance of the ECB to accept the Indian Premier League (IPL) as an essential part of the international cricket calendar, Wigmore says, “We have a chapter in the book on the ECB’s vexed relationship with the IPL. It boils down to a certain jealously, the innate conservatism in English cricket and simply the calendar: the IPL takes place in May, which is part of the English summer. But England’s attitudes have come a long way in a very short time. Before 2015, an average of 12 English players per year appeared in major overseas T20 leagues each year; since 2015, an average of 35 have.”

Cricket 2.0

As the world waits for good times to return post COVID-19, Wigmore says, “There’s so much uncertainty so it’s hard to predict, but I’m sure that both Tests and ODIs will still be around in the post COVID-19 world. More broadly, we have a chapter at the end with predictions for the future based on our research. Here are two obvious ones: the continued rise of short-format cricket; and the growing importance of club-based cricket. Ultimately I envisage the structure of cricket becoming more like football, with the calendar dominated by domestic leagues, and international cricket being more about tournaments, and less about bilateral fixtures.”

In Wilde’s view, “How cricket emerges from this crisis will be fascinating. The financial pressures placed on the sport may well accelerate things that we might have previously thought would take longer. Ultimately short form cricket is the most popular and profitable form of the game. If any format will benefit from COVID-19 it is likely to be T20.”

For Wigmore and Wilde, recognition for Cricket 2.0 has come in a big way. It was adjudged the Wisden Book Of the Year 2020, a tribute to the writers’ hard work, but also an indication that short format cricket is only set to grow.

Cricket 2.0: Inside The T20 Revolution, Penguin RandomHouse India; 399 on the Kindle

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