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Fresh Approach to Cricket Wins Many Fans


Archrivals India and Pakistan did battle yesterday, but not in the way you might think. They were opposing each other in a new controversial form of an old sport, as we hear in this letter from India by NPR's Philip Reeves.

PHILIP REEVES: Our family dog, who hates loud noises, is quivering under the coffee table. Outside, it sounds like Baghdad on a busy night.


REEVES: We'd been planning a tranquil evening at home, but our New Delhi neighborhood has different ideas. Indians frequently blast off fireworks to celebrate weddings or festivals. But this is about something else. This mayhem has been brought about by a simple game - a game frequently derided for being boring.

Now, admit it. You have heard of cricket. I know you probably think it's a peculiar English sport, which drags on for five days and is less interesting than watching someone knit. A game watched by florid-faced gentlemen and portly women in straw hats who applaud only on the rare occasion someone hits the ball more than a yard. A game where you can take a nap and wake up to find nothing's happened, except that the players have retired from the field for afternoon tea.

In fact, cricket has, for some years, been changing into a big money, razzle- dazzle sport with a massive following. But now, the time has finally come to write the obituary of what was for so long called the gentleman's game. I mean, well, just listen for yourself.


Unidentified Man: Unbelievable scenes here at the (unintelligible).

REEVES: This is the first ever World Cup final of a completely new type of cricket. South Asia, which has always loved the sport, is transfixed by the contest, which is being played in Johannesburg. It's matched India against its archrival, Pakistan. India has just won by a tiny margin. Every time a Pakistani batter was out - and there are 11 of them - my neighbor fired off a rocket. Now he's unleashing the rest of his arsenal.


REEVES: The new game is called Twenty20 Cricket. The format, entirely tailored for TV, the game last a mere three hours. Victory is generally secured by whichever team can whack the ball into the crowd as often as possible. When there's a big hit - one earning six runs, for instance - the stadium goes berserk. There are volleys of fireworks and pop music. The words, whoomp, it's a six, flash on a giant screen. And posses of cheerleaders start leaping about.

There have, of course, been complaints from cricket traditionalists like me. We think Twenty20 Cricket is turning the sport into baseball. Yet the public loves it. And because where the audience goes, money and advertisers always follow, Twenty20 is sure to be the future.

My dog will get over this. I will not.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.


MONTAGNE: And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
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