The Origins of the T20 World Cup: The Story Behind Cricket’s Biggest T20 Competition


The T20I World Cup which will be staged later this year in Australia will be the eighth edition of the tournament and promises to be bigger and better than before, especially as the pandemic affected the staging of the last edition of the tournament.

Surprisingly, despite the huge commercial success of competitions like the India T20 League, organised 20 overs a side cricket matches at international level are a comparatively new innovation, although they have quickly become the most popular format of cricket for many people, especially those of a younger demographic.


The appeal of T20 cricket

Due to increasingly busy lives, people no longer have the time or patience to sit down and watch a five day test match or even a game that lasts all day. T20 cricket offers a much more instant form of gratification, and with matches staged in the evenings in many countries, it allows spectators to attend them without having to take time off work.

Their short duration also means that they are more appealing to TV broadcasters, because they can be fitted into peak viewing slots, which, in turn, pulls in the advertisers.

And, with the addition of razzmatazz such as the playing of pop music, dancing girls, fireworks and other sideshows, T20 cricket has bridged the gap between sport and entertainment.


T20 cricket is not new

T20 cricket is not new. In fact, some form of limited overs cricket has been placed at local level in countries across the world for decades. However, as is often the case, the origins of it as a game at the professional level can be traced back to the UK (The British have a history of introducing other countries to the sport and then watching as they are consistently outperformed by them!).

In 2001 a meeting of county chairmen voted on a proposal to introduce a new competition based around 20 overs a side. The motion was carried, although not unanimously (11 – 7) , and plans were put in place for a new type of tournament. It was decided to call this Twenty20, which soon became abbreviated to T20.


First competitions

In 2003 the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) launched the Twenty20 Cup. It proved to be an almost immediate success with thousands of fans filling English cricket stadiums which were more used to crowds in the hundreds. Many of the new fans were younger as well, and not a few of them women.

Other countries began to take note, and soon South Africa, the West Indies and Australia started organising similar tournaments which also attracted huge audiences.

In 2005, history was made when the first T20 international (usually abbreviated to T20I) was staged at Eden Park in Auckland between New Zealand and Australia. In fact, neither side took the game very seriously, wearing retro kit and sporting hair styles and facial hair reminiscent of that worn during the 1980s. There were also references to the infamous Trevor Chappell underarm bowling delivery, with the umpires joining in the fun – Billy Bowden at one stage showing a mock red card to Australian paceman Glenn McGrath.

Despite that it proved to be a huge success, not only among the fans who actually attended the match, but with the TV viewers at home.

What had once seemed to be a gimmick began to be taken much more seriously and was already being hailed by many as the future of cricket.


The T20 World Cup

The ICC were not slow to react to the growing popularity of the new format, and by 2007 they came up with the concept of the first international Twenty20 tournament, which they decided to brand at the Twenty20 World Cup.

It was further decided to hold it on a biennial basis, except in the event that it coincides with the ICC World Cup (50 overs a side), in which case it will be held the previous year.

The first tournament, which was held in South Africa, consisted of the ten test playing nations at the time. They were joined by two Associate teams which had come through the ICC World Cricket League Division One, a 50 over competition, Scotland and Kenya the first two countries to qualify through this route.


India inaugural winners of the T20 World Cup

The inaugural winners of the competition were India, who defeated Pakistan in the final in Johannesburg. It was a match that went down to the wire, with Pakistan needing six to win from the last four balls, only to be bowled out.

The tournament was here to stay.


Competition winners

That remains India’s only success in the competition. In fact, the West Indies are the only nation to win the tournament twice – in 2012 and 2016. Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka and Australia have also won it once.




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