Several countries were contemplating hosting shorter cricket games in the 1990s. Martin Crowe in New Zealand developed Cricket Max in which each team batted ten eight-ball overs. Eight-a-side games called the 'Super 8s' were played in Australia. Meanwhile, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) conducted research that gave birth to the most dynamic format of the game.
The research team, headed by ECB's marketing manager Stuart Robinson, tried to find out how to bring people back to the ground. They identified a number of groups of people and realised that the reason was physical. In order to watch an ODI game or a day of a Test match, one has to stay at a stadium for as long as eight hours which hampers both his professional and personal life.
It was Robinson who came up with the idea of a shorter and entertaining format where matches would finish within three and a half hours. He went to the county teams with the proposal and surprisingly out of 18, 11 counties agreed to it. And that's how the journey of T20 cricket began.
But seven counties not agreeing to the proposal was slightly worrying and it clearly meant the format wouldn't get universal acceptance. It was also tough for the players who played 50-over and four-day games all their life to suddenly switch to a new, faster format.
Actually, the players had little idea about what the perfect approach would be in T20s with many thinking that it was all about hitting everything out of the ground. Former Middlesex captain Adam Holliaoke once famously said after winning the toss in one of the earliest T20 matches, "We will bowl first. Because we don't know what's going to happen."
The first T20 tournament- the T20 Super Cup- was held in 2003. The first-ever T20 game recorded the highest attendance for any domestic game at the Lord's in fifty years.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is now undoubtedly the most popular franchise-based T20 league in the world but surprisingly almost all the top cricketing nations had hosted T20 leagues much before India did.
Pakistan was the second country to host a T20 tournament. The tournament was held in 2004 and Faisalabad Wolves were the first winners. The next year Australia hosted a T20 match, the first in that country, between Western Warriors and Victoria Bushrangers.
2004 was the year when T20 cricket made its way into international cricket. England Women and New Zealand Women competed in the first-ever T20I in history.
The New Zealand men's team was also part of the first men's T20I when they met Australia at Eden Park in Auckland.
West Indies hosted a 19-team T20 tournament called the Standford 20/20 in 2006. Guyana won the inaugural event.
Two years after the first men's T20I, the ICC hosted a Men's T20 World Cup, previously known as ICC World T20, in South Africa. It was also the same year when the ODI World Cup took place in the Caribbean. India, who couldn't overcome the barrier of the group stage in the ODI World Cup, became the first-ever champions of the global T20 event. The ICC decided to make this tournament a biennial event.
India's World Cup win with a young squad made the format hugely popular in India and the subcontinent. An unsanctioned T20 event called the Indian Cricket League (ICL) was held in 2007. The BCCI hosted an authorised tournament the next year- the IPL. It's amazing how the IPL assembles all the star players of the world every year and produces breathtaking encounters.
T20 cricket has found a way to co-exist with Tests and ODIs. In fact, it's the most-watched form of the game currently. The T20 World Cup is knocking at the door and it's not a bad occasion to recall the great research that was conducted by Stuart Robinson and his team.