T20 cricket, played over three hours, has become the sport’s most popular format underlined by the sprouting of franchise leagues globally headed by the billion-dollar Indian Premier League.
It’s also been deemed the ‘growth engine’ for the global development of the sport highlighted by a new cashed-up T20 franchise league in the U.S. set to start in 2023.
But there are those pushing for an even shorter and sharper version of the game, believing it can appeal to those weened on soccer’s 90-minute playing time and better suit declining attention spans.
The T10 format, played over 90 minutes, has started to spread forcing the sport’s gatekeepers to start making decisions over whether to legitimise it. The arrival of the Abu Dhabi T10 league in 2017 led to widespread sneering with cynics believing this supercharged version was starting to mock the essence of the sport, whose traditional format is played over five days in white attire.
But the Abu Dhabi tournament has defied the critics having recently completed its sixth season and attracted star players over the years. It’s led to smaller cash-stricken Full Member nations, who are desperately trying to find other revenue streams, to contemplate this leaner T10 format.
Privately owned T10 franchise leagues are set to be launched next year in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in what might be a sign of things ahead.
“The audience for cricket is becoming youthful, T10 cricket is quicker and faster,” Tavengwa Mukuhlani, the chair of Zimbabwe Cricket which sanctioned the league, told me.
“T10 is well developed and can rival football because of its length. It’s 90 minutes. It’s exciting. We look forward to big names playing in Zimbabwe.”
While private leagues are emerging, T10 is not an official format of international cricket. There are already Tests and 20 and 50-over cricket formats with a fourth widely deemed as unnecessary and unlikely any time soon.
But T10’s rise does at least bring into question whether 50-over cricket might eventually be squeezed out. Sandwiched between the popular T20 and traditional Test formats, ODIs are losing relevancy although its World Cup every four years remains highly lucrative and holds considerable gravitas.
“I think for the ICC they have a number of considerations. There are three formats but two are struggling other than T20s,” Mukuhlani said. “What will be the impact if we add T10? Where do we want to go with these formats? How do we present a fourth format?
“The ICC need to think through these issues. Given where T10 is going, conversations need to take place.”
There has been belief from some that T10 would be more attractive for cricket’s bid to be included in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The T20 format is a core part of the bid as confidence within the ICC increases, according to sources, with its fate to be determined next year.
“T10 can’t be presented for the ICC bid because it isn’t an official format,” said Mukuhlani, who is on the ICC’s Olympic working group. “The first step is to have ICC recognise T10 as an official format.
“Leagues are emerging and players from Full Member nations are taking part. Our players aren’t always exposed to playing because of a lack of opportunities so T10 presents them game time.
“I don’t see anything wrong with having the T10 league in our domestic structure.”
The growth of T10 adds another layer to the rapidly changing face of cricket.