Twenty20 risks overkill, says Udal
Traditionalists, look away now. For the next six weeks the English cricket season will be given over almost entirely to the shortest form of the game, as firstly the domestic Twenty20 Cup and then the World Twenty20 swan into the spotlight. With the Indian Premier League having just finished, Twenty20 has surely never enjoyed such a high profile.
There are, however, rumblings of discontent. Many county clubs are reporting that ticket sales have not gone as well as would have been hoped: perhaps down to this season's earlier start (the Twenty20 Cup normally gets underway in June), perhaps because of the focus on the Ashes and the World Twenty20. One man who believes there are other reasons is Shaun Udal, captain of last year's winners Middlesex. While a lover of the format, he believes too much Twenty20 is being played.
"There's a danger we are going to kill it," he said. "It's typical of English cricket, you get something that's right and it gets overdone. We've got two Twenty20 competitions next year, the County Championship is starting on a ridiculously early date.
"It's daft, it's just being greedy. It's not good for the players – the strain on your body is too much – and it's not good for the spectators, who want to see the best players but won't because they're injured. We need to play less cricket – three competitions, not four: a Twenty20, a 50-over and a four-day competition."
This year's competition kicks off for Middlesex at home against Surrey this afternoon. Udal will be hoping that the key element in their victory last year, the bowling attack ("Our batting rarely had to chase more than 140 because we kept it so tight, and we always felt we could defend a decent total") will fire but he accepts it may be more difficult this year.
"We've lost a lot of players," he said. "I think we'll be better in the second half of the competition [after the World Twenty20, which runs from 4-21 June]." So who does he expect to see in the final come August, if not Middlesex? "I've got a feeling that Somerset will do quite well: they've got very strong batting, good depth to their bowling and they field very well. Kent, as well: they always seem to do well."
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