On T20 and Reading

I was completely, gloriously wrong about the IPL, and about T20 in general.

Test cricket is where it’s at was (and remains) my stance, and that led me to disparage everything about that version of cricket. But the impact that T20 has had on the sport is undeniable – the quality of fielding, the level of fitness being just two examples.

But Aakash Chopra, in a recent column over on ESPNCricinfo, wonders if the pendulum has swung too far over to the other side.

Changes reflect the times, and that’s the case with batting techniques too. Anyone brought up on a steady diet of white-ball cricket will invariably develop their game to suit its demands. The shorter formats are played on identical (read flat) surfaces across the world and no longer require different skill sets to succeed in all conditions. One size does fit all now.

https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/aakash-chopra-modern-batsmen-do-not-focus-on-their-feet-and-that-is-mostly-okay-1246221

Now, before you think that I am using this quote as a way to show how I was right all along, that is not the point I am making. As Aakash Chopra goes on to say, batsmen are behaving perfectly rationally.

Across the three formats, Test cricket is played the least, and even in the few Tests played, you come across challenging conditions only on occasion. The returns on the time invested to develop different skill sets don’t justify the effort.

The parallel I wish to draw is between the sport of cricket and reading habits. The emergence of shorter reading formats: tweets, book summaries, blogposts (ahem) are easier to read, quicker to digest and most importantly for the era we live in, save us a lot of time.

And that, unfortunately, means that most readers today (myself included) are akin to T20 batsmen. It turns out that we are very, very good at consuming very large amounts of snippets of information – in fact, we positively excel at it.

But the opportunity cost (and it is always there, isn’t it?) is that we struggle to sit and consume a full length book. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and read a classic, for example, and struggle to read in one sitting an entire book. We’re today a generation of T20 readers, as it were. To borrow from another Aakash Chopra column from way back in the day, we’re all Murali Vijay now.

There’s useful advice in that column for readers today:

We need to realise that openers and spinners need to radically change their techniques to suit the demands of the various formats of the game. While the more experienced players know how to make that switch, the younger lot aren’t equipped to strike that balance. Which is why there aren’t enough openers and spinners on the domestic circuit who can make it to Test level.

https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/aakash-chopra-where-are-india-s-next-test-openers-598370

Training ourselves to add in the odd difficult, lengthy, thought-provoking book to our diet, in other words, may not be the worst idea ever.

If you’re curious, by the way, this post is 500 words.

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