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If Twenty20 is serious cricket then it must be treated that way

Date

Lee Gaskin

Shane Warne has seen the rise of Twenty20 cricket from hit and giggle to world wide phenomenon.

Shane Warne has seen the rise of Twenty20 cricket from hit and giggle to world wide phenomenon. Photo: Chris Hyde

For Twenty20 cricket to prosper, the game's authorities need to decide whether it's still the hit and giggle we once knew, or if it has morphed into something more serious.

Holding a World Cup every two years suggests the days of miking up players and asking them questions between balls are over.

That was all part of the fun and gallantry when the Big Bash first burst into our sporting consciousness a few summers back.

Shane Warne would walk back to his mark, muttering under his breath about what ball he was about to use to deceive the unsuspecting batsman. Would it be a sharp turning leg break? The wrong'un? Perhaps even the zooter?

Millions glued to their television sets around the country knew what was the coming while the poor old batsman at the other end had absolutely no clue.

It was pure entertainment. Results barely mattered. The key indicators of success were the number of people through the gate, what the ratings were and how many sixes flew over the fence.

Now, we're more worried about George Bailey's blunder in sending Xavier Doherty to bowl the final six balls of Australia's semi-final loss to the marauding West Indians.

The vast majority of games in the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka were played in half-empty stadiums as fans failed to embrace the competition until the semi-final stage.

International Twenty20 games are so few and far between they have generally been regarded as nothing more than exhibition matches.

Australia has only three T20 games pencilled in for this summer - two against Sri Lanka and a one-off match with its conqueror from last Friday night.

It's certainly not the amount required to develop game plans and test up-and-comers at the elite level.

Doherty has excelled at the domestic level, but facing a well-set Chris Gayle and Keiron Pollard is another beast entirely.

To be fair, any bowler would have struggled to stop those two from rocketing the ball over the fence.

Australia was ranked below Ireland heading into the tournament, but signalled its intentions to take a serious approach with two shock selections early in the year.

The first was appointing Bailey to the captaincy in the same game he made his debut.

The second was bringing back left-arm spinner Brad Hogg at the ripe old age of 41.

Bailey made shrewd decisions, but was part of a batting line-up that relied far too heavily on Shane Watson, David Warner and Michael Hussey to get among the runs.

The irony is Bailey saved his best knock in T20 cricket for last, making 63 against the Windies.

Hogg picked up only two wickets for the tournament.

That minimal return makes the omission of Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon all the more baffling.

It was Lyon's sensational performances for South Australia in the Big Bash that paved the way for the former ACT Comet to be elevated into the Test arena.

The enormous money generated by the Indian Premier League and, to a lesser extent, the Big Bash, ensure Twenty20 cricket is here to stay.

But what value it has on the international calendar is still to be determined.

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