Bookmaker Fitzdares takes a look book at how T20 Cricket began, and what the most notable moments in its history have been
When T20 cricket was devised in 2003, the face of cricket would change forever. Bookmaker Fitzdares looks back at how the game has evolved.
Royal Ascot is the crown in the Flat racing season, drawing the biggest names to the Berkshire track in June each summer. Fitzdares delves into its history and remembers the biggest winners.
SPORTING WAGERS: T20 CRICKET WORLD CUP
In 2003, a man called Stuart Robertson changed the face of cricket forever. As head of marketing for the English Cricket Board, he devised a game called Twenty20 (T20) to be trialled by the English counties. Just 20 overs would be bowled by each team. It would be fast and furious. And, most importantly, it would bring back the crowds.
Test Cricket, no matter how beautiful the climax can be, is a slow-burner. Five long days of batting, bowling and fielding that can ultimately end in a draw. A game of attrition, it is taught to be played with patience and caution. One-day cricket, as the name suggests, still takes a full day for both teams to bat and bowl. Both formats, especially in county cricket, were bringing in dwindling crowds. In a pre-2005 Ashes era, cricket needed a quick fix, and Twenty20 was the answer.
Middlesex and Surrey contested the very first T20 match ever to be played at Lord’s – remarkably, it brought in a crowd of 27,509, the ground’s highest county cricket attendance (bar a one-day final) since 1953. If you’re looking at short-term impact, it was immediate.
The growth of T20 coincided with the rise of the internet and smartphones. In a new world of instant gratification, T20 answered the calls for more excitement, more often. The rare ‘wow factor’ of a six became a staple shot for any top-tier batsman. For context, the great Donald Bradman, regularly cited as the sport’s greatest player ever (with a batting average of 99.94), hit just six sixes in his entire career. Yet in 2018, West Indian superstar Chris Gayle tripled that with a record 18 sixes in a single Indian Premier League (IPL) innings. His score of 146 runs in 69 balls in that match was not even a record.
Now, in 2021, T20 is the most dominant format of the game. The IPL, the glitziest tournament in the world, was valued at more than $6bn last year. If T20 brought short-term success with the immediate return of crowds, then in the present day it can very much point to long-term success, with club tournaments like the IPL, Australia’s Big Bash and England’s T20 Blast ample evidence.
Like all great sports, the true pinnacle is international competition. In 2007, barely four years after the introduction of T20, the first World Cup was played. India defeated Pakistan in the final in Johannesburg, in the first of six editions (2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016). There appears to be no rhyme or reason behind the spacing, although given the next two editions will be a year apart, demand is clearly high.
The COVID-19 pandemic put paid to the marketers’ dream of a ‘Twenty20 2020’ World Cup, while the host country has moved from Australia to India and finally the UAE and Oman. This October, it is to be contested by 16 nations, five years after the West Indies flashed a fearsome four shots over the ropes to beat England in the final over.
Those final four balls, bowled by Ben Stokes and faced by Carlos Brathwaite, epitomised everything that is great about T20. So often T20 matches go down to the wire, as is the nature of a short-format game. Yet it is never any less exciting than the previous occasion.
From a bookmaker’s perspective, it is lucky the game was devised in the online era. Every shot, ball and catch can swing the odds. On 3 April 2016, going into that final over [pictured above], the West Indies were a massive price to knock off the 19 runs required. Brathwaite was a relative unknown, while Stokes was building a reputation as one of the most exciting all-rounders in cricket history. There would surely only be one winner. Yet with each six, the vast odds came tumbling down. Our phone lines were buzzing off the hook. Every passionate English fan was piling their wallet into the opposition, mainly out of fear. If England weren’t going to win their maiden title, at least they would make something out of it. As a bookmaker, T20 is a dangerous game to play. Anything can happen, and it usually does.
By Fitzdares, Racing Bookmaker of the Year (fitzdares.com)