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If twenty20 cricket and rugby sevens are the future, then please explain golf

Submitted by rickeyre on October 15, 2009 - 12:41am

Somerset playing Trinidad and Tobago in Bangalore. It sounds like the fulfillment of a dream in world cricket. It's day five of the inaugural Champions League bringing together twelve club or provincial teams from seven countries.

It's the first viable attempt at a world club championship of cricket after several false starts (hands up who remembers the Champions Cup at the WACA in 2001). And what has made it viable? A transformation of the sport into a truncated format. Twenty overs per side, a whole game played in unorthodox fashion at a fast(ish) pace, and all over in roughly the same time it takes to play a game of baseball.

Twenty20 cricket is perceived as the Great Cash Cow of the sport. Through the Champions League and the Indian Premier League, it has attracted big money from the emerging Indian economy and is being sold as the great hope to push the game to new horizons, especially China but also the near-impregnable USA.

Notwithstanding cricket's current unwinnable spat with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the dream is for 20-20 cricket to become an Olympic sport, either in the year of the same name, or in an Olympiad soon afterwards.

Bold-faced capitalism is currently winning the day and threatening to devour the 50-over one-day game. But is the truncation of a sport the road to a global future? Judging by recent decisions made by the International Olympic Committee, the answer is not necessarily yes.

Rugby union is returning to the Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 after a 92-year absence, but with seven players on each side, not fifteen. Unlike Twenty20, rugby sevens is no flash-in-the-pan, having grown over time from an annual long weekend in Hong Kong. There exists a rugby sevens world circuit carefully managed by the International Rugby Board, but with no sense that it threatens to take over from the fifteens as the main form of the sport.

The sevens has made a measured rise in the world arena, having been a part of the Commonwealth Games since 1998. Its selection for Rio has been widely accepted (unless, of course, you play softball).

Golf's return to the Olympics in Rio comes after a 112-year hiatus, and was received somewhat divisively. It certainly doesn't need the Games to lift its profile. What's more, it doesn't feel the need to trim itself down for Rio.

I'm sure I was far from being the only person expecting 21st century olympic golf to be an 18-hole matchplay knockout. But no, it's the full Monty (or at least the full Tiger). A full four days, 72 holes of strokeplay.

And on that note, back to the cricket. Five days of Test cricket is, we are told, too long, too slow, its subtle strategies just too obscure. The Americans, to whose dollar we cringe, are too hungry for action and non-stop thrills to tolerate something as long and slow as five-day cricket.

We're too reluctant to sell five-day cricket to a world which meanwhile cheerfully embraces four-day golf. Please explain.