Victoria hosts a shorter form of cricket

Rugby sevens, beach volleyball and three-on-three basketball will all be contested at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

See a pattern there?

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Abbreviated versions of sports have broken loose from their parent sport and become official.

So too in cricket, which, with baseball, is one of the world’s two great bat-and-ball sports.

The biennial 17th Victoria International Six-a-Side (VISAS) tournament began Friday and continues through the week at the Beacon Hill Park and Windsor Park ovals.

Although drenched in tradition, cricket has been an innovator in truncated versions of the main game.

That was bound to be in any sport in which Tests can take five days to produce a result.

“Test cricket takes five days, 50-overs cricket six hours and Twenty/20 cricket three hours,” said Nick Grant, chairman of the VISAS tournament.

“Our six-a-side games take 75 minutes.”

It’s usually less time in sixes, but VISAS has modified the game to its own liking. Normal six-a-side is only five overs. The VISAS tournament bumps that to 10 overs.

“It allows time for more strategy to develop than in regular six-a-side, and the teams like that, which is why they keep coming back here every two years,” Grant said.

Of the ball-and-bat sporting nations are the likes of the U.S., Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea in baseball. That is clearly distinct from the main cricket-playing nations of England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and West Indies.

That is reflected in the VISAS, as teams from Australia and New Zealand are most heavily represented among the 11 squads, along with a sprinkling from the U.S. and local Island leagues.

“A lot of these players’ best cricket was in the past, but that cricket was pretty good,” Grant said.

Included in the VISAS are players who played at decent levels in their prime, including former U.S. national team captain Orlando Baker, on the Dallas team.

“The cricket rivalry between the Aussies and Kiwis is massive and so there’s a lot of good-natured banter that goes on between them in VISAS,” Grant said.

Round-robin games are continuous today, Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Beacon Hill and Windsor Park ovals, with the playoff rounds going Friday and Saturday.

The oval boys of summer will experience some diamond boys of summer action when the VISAS players take in a Victoria HarbourCats baseball game on Monday at Royal Athletic Park.

“Baseball and cricket have similarities because both are team sports that uniquely feature highly individual battles between pitchers and batters . . . and bowlers and batsmen,” Grant said.

“And baseball has grown in Australia, while softball has been a big sport in New Zealand.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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