Stanford’s millions up for grabs tonight but cricket’s soul on the line

The 20/20 for $20 million match between the Stanford Superstars and an England XI at the Stanford Cricket Ground hosted by Sir Allen Stanford in Stanfordland… sorry, Antigua gets underway at 2130GMT. The tournament has been an almighty PR disaster for the ECB and the imported whores… sorry, English team have clearly tired of the circus that the Texan has surrounded them with. Stanford did a round of interviews on Thursday to try and offset the row caused by his over familiar fraternisation with some WAGS and intrusion into a dressing room but the feeling that Kevin Pietersen’s men have been pimped by the ECB and sold, body and soul for 5 years of this ‘attraction’ leaves many observers very concerned at the precedent it sets.

Update After one of the more comical displays with the bat by an international side, England are skittled for 99. The youngsters from the West Indies (most of whom don’t earn that much for playing the game) look to want it more. Barring acts of God (or loss of bottle) the second half while it might be quick, may not be much of a spectacle.

Update 2 The England XI get stuffed by 10 wickets. No spectacle, no competition, no point.I’m a fan of 20/20 but a traditionalist at heart. I like my cricketers in whites and playing a lengthy game with proper breaks for sandwiches and pop at the end of which there may be no result whatsoever but I can see the attraction of the shortest form of the game as an introduction for some or as light entertainment for those with a short attention span. There is no doubt that the counties have received a much needed boost in income from ticket (and alcohol) sales as a result of the phenomenon that 20/20 has become. The kids love it and it’s great for those finishing work at 5pm who can go to a local ground to see a 3 hour thrash, have a couple of light ales and a pie and go home happy. England (and Australia at least) are fortunate in that Test match cricket is still considered the pinnacle of the game. Attendances are robust and as any fan will tell you, the clamour for tickets for next year’s Ashes will ensure every ground full to capacity for all 25 days of the series. This is not the case in the Caribbean or the subcontinent.

20/20 is dangerous to the long form of the game due to the money that it began to generate. What began as a bit of fun 5 summers ago has changed the face of world cricket forever. The 50 over game is on its knees directly as a result of 20/20. The ICL/IPL row threatened the biggest schism in cricket since the Packer/WSC affair. International cricketers (Shane Bond of New Zealand probably the prime example) have retired prematurely from the Test game as they realise they can secure their family’s financial future by playing 8 weeks a year in the sub-continent. But most disturbingly, in India where cricket IS bigger than God, Test match attendances are falling as the new middle class want their cricket fix in easy to digest 40 over chunks played by local youngsters and fading stars in front of dancing girls and Pepsi commercials. The Indian Test side look like the best in the world at the moment, yet they can’t fill a stadium for a Test series against the Aussies. This is very worrying.

20/20 is the McDonalds, the crack cocaine, the EastEnders of cricket – full of sugar and tasty, addictive and superficially entertaining but it’s unhealthy, it’ll damage your brain and the withdrawl when the drug exits your system will leave a junkie wondering where he can get the next hit.

I feel some sympathy for KP and his men. If you were offered nearly half a million pounds to go and win a game of cricket in November in the Caribbean, you’d have to be certifiable not to take it. The aftertaste though, whatever the result tonight, will linger in the mouth for some time.

Will I be watching? Pass me the needle, it’s time to cook up.