Cricket Expert & Columnist
NatWest T20 Blast: English players must push - and clear - the boundaries
Nasser Hussain and David Lloyd assess the impact of 20-over cricket ahead of the NatWest T20 Blast.
Last Updated: 16/05/14 7:58am
Fresh from dissecting the North and South groups, David Lloyd and Nasser Hussain - part of our big-hitting commentary team - assess why T20 is so popular...
Bumble: It's instant, it's good fun. My own view is that preparation doesn't matter too much because you can plan and prepare all you like but in the end it all comes down to who performs on the day. If someone comes along and does something special, all you can do is try to better it. The best thing about Twenty20 is how unpredictable the game can be.
Nasser: Twenty20 is not cricket in its purest form and it's not as memorable as Test cricket but I still love it; it's like tucking into a tasty pudding - then moving onto the next one!
Bumble: This game started in 2003 as fun for the family and I hope we don't get away from that because it's terrific for young children - boys and girls with their mums and dads.
Nasser: I'm taking my two boys and a couple of their mates to see the double-header at Lord's on Saturday. If you get good weather it's a good day out. That has got to be as important as any other form of cricket.
Bumble: Scores in Twenty20 cricket keep going up and up and up. These days if a side needs 50 to win off four overs you'd fancy them to get them.
I think it's important that the T20 Blast has been revamped this year because we've got a bit of distance to make up on the IPL. Our players have lacked power in recent international tournaments so this is an ideal re-start to see if we can regain some ground. While the Blast is fun and is going to be a wonderful spectacle (weather permitting), the serious side is that it gives our players an opportunity to improve their skills because we've got to be quite brutal and say we're miles behind the rest of the world in batting and bowling.
In the recent past we've seen other teams play powerful, no-fear cricket whereas England have seemed obsessed with hitting the ball behind the wicket, playing reverse this and reverse that. The opposition hit it into the crowd in front of the wicket! We've got to work on our power. I've watched England practice their 'range-hitting' but they still can't hit it as far as the opposition.
Nasser: England struggled on a tired pitch against the Netherlands in the World Twenty20, so it's important for our players to get experience of posting big totals on slow, spinning pitches too. Sometimes a low-scoring game can be good viewing. But there is a direct correlation between good summers and the success of Twenty20; that's when you get the big crowds in and it works. Good pitches make a huge difference too because, let's be honest, people want to see plenty of boundaries - and we had lots of good pitches last year.
At the moment the IPL has a slight edge in attracting the best overseas players because of when our tournament is scheduled during the year. That's not to say there aren't box office players in this year's competition - people will get the chance to see guys who can give it a smack like Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, Jesse Ryder - but we need to ensure that every county has the chance to sign a top-flight overseas star that can put bums on seats.
Bumble: Aside from the World Cup, the T20 has barnstormed 50-over cricket to the point where we don't hear too much about 50-over cricket anymore. Tournaments like the IPL and the Big Bash have become big, annual events in the cricket calendar.
Nasser: I'd say that T20 has had good and bad influences on cricket as a whole. Because of the money available in Twenty20, some players have migrated towards it quicker than they would have done in my era - world-class players like Shane Warne, Chris Gayle or Kevin Pietersen now have the option of going into IPL cricket and ending their career in that direction, which is great for them. But what happens if a team like the West Indies or New Zealand, for example, loses too many players from Test cricket to T20 cricket? On the plus side, those guys become better one-day cricketers; you only have to see how well-trained India are when it comes to hitting the ball. England have, at times, been behind the curve because so few of their guys have played IPL.
I think T20 has given a new dimension to 50-over cricket but I'm not so sure it has helped advance Test cricket to the same degree because players need time and energy to give Test cricket everything they have.
Watch 39 NatWest T20 Blast fixtures, including a Middlesex double header in the first weekend, live on Sky Sports this summer - starting with Friday's opening clash between Nottinghamshire Outlaws and Lancashire Lightning. For full details click here.