Cricket, the Twenty20 version, has been likened to a crash course in the grand old game – cricket for those who don't have the time or patience to sit through a five-day Test match.
It is the brand of cricket that will be on display when an all-star match between an Asian XI and International XI takes the pitch at Rogers Centre on Saturday afternoon.
In brief, the Twenty20 game – which was developed about 10 years ago – involves two teams. Each has a single innings, batting for a maximum of 20 overs. Each innings lasts about 75 minutes, and a full Twenty20 game (also called a T20) runs about 2 1/2 hours.
There is enough tradition to make it familiar – spin bowlers and wicket-keepers and helmet-armoured batsmen and bails and wickets – but the game is fast and more aggressive. And veteran players who might not make it through a long test can find the old magic to be stars for an afternoon.
Brian Lara of Trinidad and Tobago, for instance, will be a member of the International XI on Saturday and Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka will be a member of the Asia XI. Lara is 43; Jayasuriya is 42.
Neil Manthorp, an event consultant who has developed expert status though more than 40 cricket tours, will be one of the television commentators Saturday. The English-born South African says its a perfect way for curious Canadians to learn the highlights of the game.
"It's not just five days that spectators can't take any more, they can't take a full day," he said, referring to eight-hour, one-day competitions. The Twenty20 format has taken cricket into a brand new direction and "changed more than a century of cricket history overnight."
"It's a three-hour spectacle, which bring it more into line with most if the major U.S. sporting events like football and baseball," Manthorp said.
European officials did not intend to have Twenty20 replace other forms of cricket and these have continued alongside it.
"For the first five years, traditionalists were convinced it would spell the end of the longer, purer form of the game. They're beginning to reconsider that now. Some of the best 20-over players are traditional batsmen … but there was real pessimism, a sense of 'death in the family.' It started filling stadiums and people started saying they'd never go back to a test match again," Manthorp said.
"But what's beginning to happen. … It's like kids who play mini-golf … they get hooked on it and it's great. … It's led to the creation of bank-shots and hitting of shots that never existed, and then they start to think, 'Is there more to this?'
"Twenty20 cricket appeals to people who would never, ever have any interest in cricket, people who would find the notion of watching a sport for seven hours or five days absolutely abhorrent," Manthorp added.
"Statistics don't prove it yet, but there's a feeling among traditionalists that Twenty20 might be a good thing for the game. … This game can be taken anywhere in the world that has a 'hit-the-ball' culture."
The game has spread around the cricket world. On most international tours there is at least one Twenty20 match. While the Twenty20 format is still in its infancy, Manthorp says, it has led to the development of new cricket equipment.
"A couple of new bats have been developed with a longer handle and a shorter pitching area – the rationale being that it creates greater bat speed and you can have more wood in the hitting area," he said.
"Equipment makers haven't caught up with it all, but certainly there's more protective [gear] Batsmen are more cautious. The ice-hockey throat guard is in use, and that was never, ever contemplated by cricket batsmen before because you stood upright and defend yourself. But now, you go down on one knee and put your head and your face right in the firing line of a fast bowler.
"It's an area that will expand."