Sydney: This week I've been driving to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to work but not on an 11-a-side game but one played by teams of nine men. Yes, the famous old cricket ground has been transformed into a baseball diamond, complete with dirt base paths and a pitcher's mound, to host a two game series between US major league teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks bats during a baseball match between Team Australia and Arizona Diamondbacks at Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday and India's Yuvraj Singh hooks an Australian bowler during a T20 International at Mumbai on October 20, 2007. Pics/Getty Images
This might seem sacrilege on a ground that was home for many years to Don (later Sir Donald) Bradman when he was the greatest batsman alive. However, it seems that this may not be the case, because back in 1932, when Bradman was touring North America, he met the equally famous George Herman 'Babe' Ruth at another sporting cathedral, Yankee Stadium.
During that meeting The Babe asked Bradman what impressed him about baseball and the Australian icon answered; "In two hours or so the match is finished. Each batter comes up four or five times. Each afternoon's play stands on it's own. Yes, cricket could learn a lot from baseball… there is more snap and dash to baseball."
Well, some 70 years on Bradman's wishes were granted and cricket did learn a lot from baseball. They devised a similar game that lasts around three hours; it's called T20. At the same time as the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks are battling for supremacy at the SCG, many of the best cricketers are in Bangladesh fighting for the right to be called World T20 champions.
Already we've seen some upsets and appropriately one of cricket's great rivalries kicked off the main section of the draw, with India completing a comprehensive victory over Pakistan. This provides another similarity with baseball where the rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees is often compared to India and Pakistan's intense battles. The big difference being the cricket rivalry has survived wars and terrorist attacks and yet still creates enormous interest in the two countries.
Sir Don Bradman
This time it's India who is celebrating supremacy. Apart from the time it takes to play a T20 game, one of the big attractions is the fact that it's more likely to involve upsets than the longer forms of the game. One team only needs to have an exceptionally good over or the other, a particularly bad six deliveries and the complexion of the game can change dramatically. The minnows are more likely to mix it with the cricketing superpowers in the game's shortest version.
In addition to the requirement to satisfy the modern trends of a fast moving world, T20 also affords the game it's greatest opportunity to globalise. It's impossible to sell five-day matches to major markets like the USA, Europe, Japan and parts of Asia where cricket isn't a tradition. However, there is an opportunity to have those regions embrace a short version of the game and this is where T20 can play a major role in the development of cricket.
Development, a key aspect
So, while India and Pakistan continue their rivalry and other heavyweights like Australia, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa join in the fight for the silverware, it's interesting to witness the development of associate nations like the Netherlands, Ireland, Nepal and Afghanistan as they scrap for relevance in world cricket.
America's Serena Williams (left) and sister Venus Williams try their hand at batting during a meet and greet session with the Melbourne Renegades in Melbourne last January. Pic/Getty Images
The one name missing from those associate nations battling to mix it with the 'big boys', is the USA. Their progress has been slowed by in-fighting amongst the various administrative groups but maybe the emergence of the fledgling but innovative American Cricket Federation will finally get the game in the USA on track.
There's no doubt that cricket's hierarchy would love nothing better than to welcome the USA into the main draw of a World T20 tournament. If that does eventuate, cricket fans could witness the reverse of the amazing transformation that the SCG has undergone, at one of the legendary homes of baseball, like Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park.