Do players even care about Twenty20 internationals?

Date: January 29, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

steve-smith-1003Steve Smith’s dismissal at the Adelaide Oval the other night sent social media into overdrive.

It was neither the shot selection nor the quality of the bowling that had people’s fingers tapping furiously on miniature keyboards.

The thing the audience found irksome was the fact that Smith was wired up with a Channel Nine microphone and earpiece.

Seconds before he was dismissed he was commentating on his own batting and extolling the virtues of one of his strokes. Such was his effort, Mark Nicholas suggested he do some more commentary whilst facing the bowling.

That was when disaster struck.

Smith meekly holed out to Virat Kohli at extra cover from the bowling of Ravendra Jadeja.

According to many in the Twittersphere Smith’s dismissal had been brought about by Channel Nine. What the hell were they doing speaking to Smith whilst he was at the crease?

It was an interesting public reaction.

Throughout the recently concluded BBL – televised to record-breaking audiences on Network Ten – fans again appeared to lap up the comments from players out in the middle.

One innings, in particular, was lauded.

It featured England discard and current Melbourne Star, Kevin Pietersen despatching the ball to the rope and beyond with gay abandon whilst all the while chatting away to the commentators and virtually talking the viewer through each delivery.

Many tweeted their appreciation for the insight that Pietersen brought into their lounge rooms.

Had Pietersen been dismissed one wonders what the social media reaction would have been.

Yes, the BBL is franchise cricket. It is all about razzamatazz and entertainment but aren’t international T20s marketed in the same way.

The players walk along a red carpet lined with sparklers to get onto the ground. Music blares between deliveries, often not muted until a fast bowler is in his run-up.

Boundaries and wickets are greeted with explosive flamethrowers around the perimeter of the field.

Both the BBL and T20 internationals are laid out in the same fashion – razzle dazzle, high octane sport that is morphed with Hollywood-style entertainment.

The major tenet of the shortest format of the code is about generating more interest – through viewership and bums on seats which the authorities hope will translate into more youngsters wanting to take up, or at least, stay with the sport.

Hence, it is loaded with the gimmickry that longer form cricket, especially at Test level, is not.

When a batsman is dismissed after any innings of note in the T20 game the audience expects to hear from him before he has even had time to unpad.

In Test cricket, great innings are compiled and terminated without a word from the batsman until after stumps.

For whatever reason, a batsman seems incapable of speaking about his innings – with the rarest of exceptions – until the day’s play has been done and dusted.

Is that being petty and denying the audience an insight to a significant moment in a Test match?

At present there is a distinct pecking order in the sport when it comes to the inclusion of the viewer.

Test cricket and T20 sit at either end of the spectrum with ODIs somewhere in the middle with respect to what add-ons are provided to the TV watcher.

But what of T20 cricket specifically? How do the fans – and perhaps even more importantly the players – view it?

Smith could have easily refused to be hooked up to Nine. Nobody was forcing him.

The argument against his direct involvement in the broadcast was largely predicated on two things – it was an international fixture and he got out.

But which of those two criteria irked the viewers the most?

Was it that a player should not be subject to such intrusion in an international match or the fact that, bugger it, he got out?

Had Smith not chipped the ball to an equally vocal Kohli would anyone have complained about Smith’s on-field commentary?

The authorities and the players need to make a determination as to just where international T20 cricket sits within the sport’s landscape.

Together both parties need to decide at which point international T20s should differ from the likes of the BBL – or, equally as importantly – whether in fact they need to at all.

Should it remain an interactive event in the hope that fans learn something from the players whilst they are in the middle or at least feel more entertained, or should such distractions be left for domestic events like the BBL?

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 28 January 2016, soliciting 120 comments