Widen's Lawrence Booth spoke to Off the Ball ahead of the World Twenty20 final
One of the most watched sporting events in the world this weekend, will be taking place in Kolkata, India on Sunday as England face the West Indies in the ICC World Twenty20 Final.
Both England and the West Indies reached the final after wins over New Zealand and India respectively in the semi-finals. Whichever team wins the final will become the first to be crowned World Champions twice. In the previous five editions of the tournament, there have been five separate winners.
Lawrence Booth, editor of Widen's Cricketers' Almanac and cricket writer with the Daily Mail spoke to Off the Ball on Thursday evening about how the shortest version of the game has captured the wider sporting public's attention.
Twenty20 cricket has not even reached its fifteenth birthday yet. The first games took place June 2003 as a domestic tournament in England. The first international was played less than two years later in Auckland as Australia defeated New Zealand. In 2007, India won the first World Cup in the shorter format.
Such was the popularity of the game in India after that win, the Indian Premier League was created which pumped money into the game and enticed players from all around the world to India. Since the creation of the IPL, similar tournaments have been created in the Caribbean, Australia, South Africa and England to varying degrees of success.
In light of the success of the Twenty20 game, Test cricket has suffered poor attendances and viewing figures. Popular events like the Ashes still draw full houses but the five-day format has struggled in recent years. Booth thinks that cricket's organising bodies are facing a dilemma about how to publicise the longer format of the game.
West Indies player Lendl Simmons is held aloft they celebrate their seven win over India at the ICC World Twenty20 Semi-Final .(AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
"Test cricket does face an identity crisis. Why would the youngsters of today tune in for five days, and a game that may end in a draw when they can get their excitement in three hours in a Twenty20 match. Cricket has to be careful about where it's heading. I don't mean that in an overly purist way, but cricket does have to ask itself what type of sport it wants to be."
Twenty20 and One-Day cricket has seen major investment in recent years with tournaments taking place regularly around the globe. Booth wants to see the success of those the shorter formats seep into the five-day game.
"If people are serious about Test cricket, they should market it properly. The should schedule it properly. The money which comes through from Twenty20 and is a vital part of cricket's eco-system has to be used to prop up Test cricket.
"Cricket will probably find a way to survive. I just think the balance will be skewered less towards Test cricket than it has in the last 130 years"
Sunday's final is a rematch of one of the opening games of the tournament, when the West Indies won by six wickets. Despite that, Booth thinks England have a good chance of winning the final. "They have actually got a better chance against the West Indies, that they would have had against India... England and West Indies are similar teams. They both go hell for leather. They bat all the way down (the order) and they can chase anything down. Predicting Twenty20 is a mugs' game, but England a peaking at the right time."
The next World Twenty20 tournament takes place in Australia in 2020. The game may have evolved to a level not previously comprehended in four years time. At the rate the game has evolved, you would not bet against it.