Using the T20 to get the fans


  • Bend It Like Bedi
  • Wednesday, 16 Nov 2016

Lara showed off his batting skills during the friendly match at the Kinrara Academy Oval recently. MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star.

 It's not everyday that a superstar such as cricketer Brian Lara is in Malaysia. For the uninitiated, he is one of the greatest cricketers of all time.

He has too many records to mention here, like the highest Test score of 400 not out, but if you're a cricket fan you will definitely know who he is. 

So it was quite a shock that there was an extremely disappointing turnout to a charity match between a Brian Lara's XI and the Malaysian Cricket Association XI last Wednesday.

It was not a first class match, but a chance to see Lara batting, even at the age of 47 was something that I looked forward to.

It's the likes of these sportsmen who will be able to motivate youngsters to pick up and go all out in the game.

Malaysia does have young talented cricketers who can make it big in the game.     

Maybe Malaysia should try and concentrate on the T20s format. It's sad to say but the One Day International (ODI) and Test cricket are losing their lustre, especially the latter. 

The problem with ODIs and I'm not even talking about Test here, it is just too long. Not many people have eight hours to watch cricket. That's like one-third of a day.

The only people who really follow the Tests are the hardcore fans of the game or the purists. 

But even Lara said that the game has grown because of the T20s. 

"Last night I was watching Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe. There wasn't even a dog in the stadium. So that can't be good for the sport," he said in reference to a Test match that was going on.  

Many purists believe the T20s have destroyed the game, as players concentrate on making more and more money.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise is a money spinner and some players even foresake the traditional game to concentrate on this format.  

Lara admitted that while it has brought about "little chaos" and Test cricket has lost a little bit, he believed that players are now as powerful as they should be. 

 "It is commercial but I think the players have benefited. During my playing days any little issue with the board you can't take it too far because you are always depending on them to get selected.

Playing for the West Indies is the only option other than a country contract," he told some young cricket players at the Kinrara Oval.

My colleague Shaun Orange had asked the easy-going Lara about the growing commercialism of the game.  

"I mean we just saw a guy playing football who signed a contract for half a million pounds a week. I'm not saying that cricket will get to that level but with what's happening with the IPL, cricketers are now getting their true worth," continued Lara.

Malaysia does have talented players judging from the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Asia Qualifier Division 2 2016 that we won recently.

In the final last month, Malaysia defeated Singapore by six wickets. The likes of the captain Virandeep Singh have potential to make it far. 

We have a few pitches that are world class, with the Kinrara Oval even hosting a three-team tournament that featured West Indies, Australia and India back in 2006.

Lara had played in that tournament that now seems ages ago.

The only thing we don't have are the fans. To get better at a sport, you need them. And maybe the T20s format could be the formula to attract them.

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