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Call it a circus, an impure poor cousin or a bastardisation of the great game, but get used to it – Twenty20 cricket started as a sideshow to lure new fans not up for a five-day Test match, but it’s now a main event.

This week we’ll see a finals series for the second big bucks international tournament in as many months as the ICC T20 Champions League wraps up in South Africa (the final will be played on October 28), following the West Indies’ win in the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.

The condensed form of the game may not be for all cricket lovers, but it’s been a hit with sponsors, TV networks and, most importantly, punters.

Just like T20, most athletic pursuits have modified versions so they can be played indoors, in smaller teams, within shorter time frames or to make it more entertaining – and sometimes the variation even breaks into the mainstream.

Cricket: Twenty20 vision

Less than a decade ago the first professional T20 matches were played between English county sides, the wham-bam format an ideal option for after-work pints.

Now every major cricketing nation has its own short-form league, with serious money and international imports, including the Big Bash in Oz. As with world cricket as a whole, that tournament is weighted towards India, the sport’s richest market.

The Indian Premier League (IPL), the big daddy of T20 tournaments where some players, such as Ravindra Jadeja, get auctioned for US$1m-plus for six weeks’ work, has four teams in the so-called Champions League – Australia and South Africa have two each, while the other nations had to play qualifiers for the two spots filled by Auckland Aces and Yorkshire Carnegie.

Since the IPL threw stupid amounts of cash at the format in 2008, international fixtures are more than a novelty at the start of a series with blaring music and jokey commentary, and as such the game’s become more refined.

Batsmen no longer dominate bowlers – 160 is now a competitive score, where 200 would have done the job before bowlers worked out how to make the axe-man’s job tougher.

Good for crowds is the fact the team which hits the most sixes tends to win – at the World Cup this was the Windies.

Pundits agree the explosive new form has reinvigorated cricket, possibly to the detriment of the 50-over game (see next page) and maybe helped Tests become more dynamic.

Aussie legend Adam Gilchrist has even said it should be an Olympic sport: “It would be difficult to see a better, quicker
or cheaper way to spread cricket throughout the world.”

Golf: Match play masters

Another gentile sport in need of an excitement injection gets one whenever the US and Europe clash clubs for the Ryder Cup – or Rest of the World meet the US in the President’s Cup.

The contest buzz doesn’t all come from the quality of the players (the best) or the tension that comes with having teams in a usually solitary sport – it’s match play.

Every hole produces a score, whether it’s four ball, foursomes or mano-a-mano. You win the hole, you get a point. Win the most holes out of 18, you win the match.

Simple. A stroke play tournament – most of them – goes for four days and 72 holes, with the lowest score deciding a winner. The best part of a stroke play tournament?

A play-off, which happens if two players are tied at the end. Guess how this is decided? Match play.

 

American Football: Less is more

There’s no touching American Football in the US – it will make nearly US$40bn in 2014-2022 on TV deals alone. But something so big is ripe for quality spin-offs.

The indoor Arena Football League is in its 25th season. But the brightest light in American Football offspring is the Lingerie Football League, a seven-a-side full-contact contest played by scantily clad but fiercely athletic women.

It’s taking off globally. After a three-match All Star Series with one game in Mexico and two in Australia this year, the LFL is launching an Aussie league in 2013 and a European one in 2014 – an LFL World Bowl is already planned to play in Brazil in 2014, too.


Talkback


T20 cricket has grown bigger than anyone expected, but could other sport spin-offs leapfrog the original?
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