The T20 format has brought a radical change in the way cricket is perceived and played at present. The art of stroke-play while batting has brought in innovative shots, showcasing how the game is progressing in all aspects. Corporates have followed two cardinal principles in creating a successful business. One being, "the customer is the king" and the other, "is that a customer is always right". Cricketers today have imbibed these mantras wonderfully well. They have realized the importance of playing to the gallery and the effect it would have in establishing them as a saleable and commercially viable brand. The corporate jargon of a "start-up" is very similar to a cricketer making his mark in the International world of cricket.
India, recently lost the two-match T20 series against Australia at home. Both the matches went to the wire and although India lost, there was no undue criticism or disappointment that one normally sees when a team loses a Test match series. The spectators seem to accept that the shorter version of the game has a huge amount of luck attached to it and so do not take a loss seriously. This has made a cricketer far more aggressive and a bigger risk taker than ever before.
Test cricket has benefited from the way the game is being played now. Cricket in the past was filled with brilliant stroke players and although, Sir Don Bradman headed the list, the great W.G.Grace, Ranjitsinghji, Jack Hobbs and many others thereafter, all graced the turf for the enjoyment of the crowd that came to see and appreciate their art. The post-World War II era, saw cricket being played in a far more sedate manner, with patience and taking a minimum amount of risk.
Unfortunately, these traits were planted in the mind of a cricketer to get him to be more consistent and successful. In the sedentary life of the people then, cricket was "a way of life" and was to be enjoyed in a peaceful manner. The turn of the 21st century brought about a complete change for the betterment of cricket. The sport is now looked at far more seriously and with the T20 leagues emerging and becoming successful in every cricket playing country in the world, the game is fast escalating towards emulating the success that football has had over the years.
The past month has seen some of the most spectacular performances in cricket. Although India, was finally the first Asian team to beat Australia at home, the 2-0 series win by the lowly-ranked Sri Lankan side against South Africa in the Proteas backyard, was far more brilliant. Kusal Perera, a relatively unknown middle order Sri Lankan batsman, scripted the best Test innings ever played in the history of the game. His 153 not out resulted in a miraculous one wicket win that made the emerald island glitter via a performance that will be talked about for years to come.
It was wonderful to see West Indies cricket finally rise from the dead. Cricket has been blessed by the calypso cricketers from the Caribbean islands and cricket lovers from all over the world were hoping for a revival. A Test series win against England has finally brought an air of confidence to their side. A masterly double century in the first Test match in Barbados by their captain, Jason Holder, was the icing on the cake for West Indian cricket. A successful captain brings that extra bit of energy into a side. India, is a good example of it. The team has been basking in the consistent and glorious performances of their captain Virat Kohli.
Meanwhile, in Dehradun, Hazratullah Zazai playing for Afghanistan against Ireland smashed 162* in 62 balls and became the second batsman ever to score over 150 runs in a T20 International match. The players from Afghanistan are developing into not only top cricket performers but they also seem to have the famous Afghan fighting spirit in them. This team could prove to be a menace for the top sides vying to win the cricket World Cup 2019 in England. A few surprises are definitely in store where they are concerned. The lovely game of cricket is exploding like never before. In baseball today, most home-runs are made once the ball is hit into the stand between the four poles. The popular saying goes, "Home run hitters drive a Cadillac and single hitters drive a Ford".
The plethora of sixes one is seeing today, especially in the recent One-Day Internationals by Jos Buttler, Chris Gayle, Glenn Maxwell, M.S. Dhoni and Virat Kohli seems to indicate that cricket is now progressing in the same manner as the popular United States sport "baseball". A homer and sixer are now very much in the same league as in cricket. A cricket spectator is evolving gradually into the hamburger and pizza world. The Indian Premier League will be just the appetizer that the biggest follower of the game of cricket will be subjected to next month. The cricket world, however, is now gearing up for the biggest prize in cricket, The World Cup. But for the millions of spectators, one definite ingredient is now ensured in the DNA of the game of cricket and that is that, it will rain and hail sixes for sure.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer)