The T20 takeover and lessons for New Zealand

Insights Newsletter
17 May, 2024

While instant gratification reigns supreme and attention spans are shorter than a Tik-Tok video, the grand old game of test cricket finds itself, like the New Zealand economy, on a sticky wicket.
The rise of T20, with its frenetic pace, flashy uniforms, and pyrotechnic displays has left the traditional five-day format looking as outdated as a record player. In February, South Africa sent a below-strength test side to New Zealand so its marquee players wouldn’t miss its own T20 competition.
The two-month juggernaut that is the Indian Premier League (IPL) concludes on 27 May. A few days later, a month-long T20 World Cup will begin in the West Indies. For almost three months, almost no test cricket will have been played anywhere.
Gone are the days when spectators would settle in to witness batsmen meticulously build an innings and bowlers steadily build pressure. Now, it's all about the thrill of the next six and knowing the match will finish before bedtime. Stadiums that once echoed with applause now throb with the pulse of dance beats. Players who once prided themselves on textbook techniques now focus on perfecting ramp shots and reverse sweeps.
This cricket revolution reflects wider societal changes. We live in an era of fast food, fast fashion, and fast news. Politics is no different. In New Zealand we see heavy use of parliamentary urgency, a fast-track approvals bill, and even faster turnover of Green MPs.
Purists argue that T20 is to cricket what a Big Mac is to fine dining. They lament the loss of the nuance, strategy, and sheer grit required to excel in the test arena. The same can be said of politicians’ appetite for difficult but necessary reforms.
Test cricket is struggling to keep up, but there is hope. It is adapting to the brave new world. Far fewer matches end in draws. Scoring rates have accelerated. Bazball has transformed the previously underwhelming England test team. Similarly, New Zealand’s economy needs a productivity rev up.
Will test cricket’s evolution be enough? Will it revive like vinyl records which have made a comeback in the age of streaming? Or in a few years will we be raising a can of Red Bull to mark the demise of the test match?
That is as uncertain as how to ramp up New Zealand’s sluggish productivity and economic growth. Three days after the IPL final Nicola Willis delivers her first budget. Maybe we’ll get an answer to that question at least.

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