Twenty20 game is the fast-food of cricket

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 12:59 21/09/2012

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OPINION: Much like my adopted cat, I do enjoy a feed of KFC.

But I can only manage it as an irregular treat - once every three months suffices. A steady diet of the Colonel's secret recipe would be too much to stomach.

Unfortunately for me, the World Twenty20 competition started this week - an enforced smorgasbord of fast-food cricket for the next 16 days, where the cow-corner slog will be as prevalent as a scoop of chips and the cover drive the sought-after salad.

I'm not a cricketing snob, but whatever brief appeal the shortest form of the game initially held has been ditched with the scraps.

Ironically, what separates the format from the longer form to produce its attractiveness is also its saving grace - Twenty20 matches can only occupy our declining attention span for approximately three hours - often less if the Black Caps bat first.

Prior to the match against Bangladesh tonight, the Black Caps had played 53 official T20 matches, winning 25, losing 25 while three were tied (and then decided by bowl-offs or one-over lotteries).

So instead of wasting three hours, you could just flip a coin prior and keep the telly switched off.

New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum is the leading runscorer in international T20 history.

Will that be the 30-year-old's chief claim to cricketing fame? It's an achievement that barely registers. All avid cricket fans know Don Bradman finished with a test average of 99.94. Casual followers know Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis are among the game's most prolific test batsmen, while Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne have the most test scalps - a mark once belonging to our greatest player, Sir Richard Hadlee.

I can't entirely blame T20 for the disintegretion of the skills required to play the long form at the highest level by New Zealand's best. But it has certainly greased the skids.

Should the Black Caps fare well at the tournament in Sri Lanka, it may gloss over our awful test record of late.

In the past five years, New Zealand have won nine of their 43 test matches, while losing 22 and drawing 12. Six of those victories came against Bangladesh (four) and Zimbabwe (two). There were home wins over England and Pakistan, with the only truly notable triumph against our trans-Tasman neighbours in Hobart  last December.

If the World T20 isn't enough to sate your demands for instant finger-licking gratification, you can still head to the drive-thru window of domestic cricket.

The HRV Cup this summer spans almost three months, from the start of November til late January. For that Friday night fix, Sky have your TV dinner ready to plop onto your ample plate.

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In recent seasons the competition has been played during the school holiday period to draw large crowds to the venues, but this schedule appears at least partly designed to satiate those couch potatoes who are currently consuming a filling fare of instantly forgettable ITM Cup rugby matches.

Across the Tasman, the domestic T20 competiton is known as the KFC T20 Big Bash League. Never in the history of sport has there been a more fitting alliance between sponsor and product.

■ Here's my obligatory ''poor late-game rugby coaching decisions'' segment.

With 10 minutes left in last Saturday's All Blacks v South Africa test, the visitors were awarded a penalty five metres inside their attacking half while trailing 15-8. The Boks elected to kick for goal and substitute Johan Goosen pinged over an excellent long-ranger to draw his side to within four points.

The Springboks never gained possession again within the All Blacks' 22.

Why would a coach or captain elect to kick a penalty when trailing by seven, knowing his side would still need a try or two further penalties to win? Given that the visitors only once truly threatened the home side's tryline thanks to some individual brilliance from Bryan Habana, the wise option would have been to kick for touch near the NZ line and set up a forward drive from a lineout which had served them well previously.

Apart from the likely explanation that they haven't thought these options through and done their analytical homework properly, the other possible reason is that the opposing sides are happy just to stay close, gaining some credit for a tightly-fought match, rather than being castigated for a double-digit defeat.

South Africa missed their one shot when the All Blacks muffed a defensive lineout and were punished heavily for their tactical sin when the hosts again clinically took the correct option and denied South Africa a bonus point at the death with a successful penalty kick.

So far, the All Blacks' coaching staff and Richie McCaw have made the right moves. But they have yet to be forced into tough decisions that may await them in Argentina and South Africa.

Will they show more nous than Heyneke Meyer, who didn't present a composed picture in the coaching box last Saturday?

- Waikato Times

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