In T20 there are 20 overs or 120 balls for each team to play. A normal T20 match lasts for about 3 hours not counting delays due to different factors such as rain. T20 was launched in 2003 by the England and Wales Cricket board. The first international match was played between England and New Zealand’s women’s teams in 2004 with the New Zealand team winning by nine runs. From then on it’s popularity has risen triple fold. Back then T20 cricket was popular in England in the form of small games but since then many different leagues with wealthy promoters have come up as well.
The first T20 league was the T20 cup now known as the T20 blast. It was established by the England and Wales cricket board in 2003 and has been known by various names due to different sponsorships. Fast forwarding to 15 July 2004, the first real T20 hit match happened when a game between Surrey and Middlesex took place in Lords witnessed by about 27000 spectators. The reason this match was particularly popular was because it was the first T20 match to be held in Lords – the famous cricket ground of England where history has been made several times. After the inauguration of the T20 blast in 2003, Pakistan was the next to jump into the fray with their own T20 championship in 2004. Many teams from different parts of the country participated with the Faisalabad Wolves winning the final. In 2005 and 2006, Australia and West Indies respectively started hosting T20 games between regional teams.
In 2007, T20 cricket took a big leap with the first twenty-twenty international World Cup in which all the greats of the game participated and fought for the trophy. It ended with an absolute thriller of a match between India and Pakistan in which India won a closely fought battle by just 5 runs. This exciting match between two big rivals was just what T20 cricket needed. It’s popularity rose sky high. It may be interesting to note that Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the captain of the winning Indian team, who later went on to become one of the greatest captains and a legend of the game. Another key moment of this tournament was Yuvraj Singh hitting 6 sixes off Stuart Broad in an over which was only the second time in the entire history of cricket.
In 2008, T20 came to India with the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) starting off with eight teams. The IPL attracted a lot of audience particularly women who were interested in the shorter format of the game. This expanded the audience and brought in more revenues. The franchise model also meant that the franchisees spent money on building their brand and a fan following for their teams. The initial teams were based around big cities of India like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore and were promoted by big corporate firms. There was a lot of advertising by the teams which increased the popularity of the sport. There was an auction system by which players, both foreign and Indian, were roped into the different teams. This format led to huge sums of money being paid to some of the best cricketers of the time. This also expanded the number of domestic players and some really good talent started coming into IPL and then moving on to represent India in international matches. Each franchise team brought in the best of not only domestic and international cricketing players but also top notch coaches and mentors. Cricketing legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Muthiah Muralidharan initially played for different leagues and subsequently started mentoring talent for various leagues. All this took cricket to a different level and today T20 cricket is comparable to major sports such as soccer and basketball in the US.
Lastly I would like to include my personal views about this format of cricket. Many are known to hate this format as they feel it is not “proper” cricket. However I feel that time flows like a river and one must keep up with it. As the saying goes “Change is inevitable, Change is constant.” If T20 had not been introduced, it is my opinion that cricket would have become a dead sport. T20 expanded the audience of cricket and made it possible for the sport to grow rather than stay with the same test and one-day formats which, to be honest, were too long for the common man to watch entirely.
Sources: Wikipedia, ESPN Cricinfo