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ODI Cricket Dead? Not Yet!

Since the T20 format has come about many experts, analysts have been critical of the co-existence of all 3 formats of the game (came across a perspective from the meticulous CNN-IBN sports editor Gaurav Kalra which got me to present this counter view!). The critique in such observations does have evidence and practical issues to back it, but many of them tend to conclude on the exclusion of 50-over cricket at the international level, which I believe should be the last option.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been pretty clear on its stand of co-existence of all 3 formats; backing that stance by rejecting a window to the ‘domestic’ T20 league - IPL, forbidding a 7-match T20I series and through speculative reports suggesting every third 50-over World Cup could be hosted by the sub-continent!

The views that ODI cricket has been on a decline since the advent of T20 cricket are only partially true. ODI cricket has been struggling for a long while now; in fact T20 cricket was born out of the necessity to find a lucrative option to 50-over cricket both domestically and at the international level. The above point is made to indicate that the argument to get rid of ODI cricket has been on the assumption of T20 cricket being the future of cricket isn’t a flawless one. What if 10 years T20 cricket has sameness to it and test cricket continues to slide both in terms of popularity and quality? This could be misleading but the IPL trends suggest that T20 leagues may not necessarily be the future.

In today’s day and age everything has to be associated with marketing prospects and of quantum of off-field viewership. Marketing experts or media analysts could have the correct data on this, but you sense that 50-over World Cup generated more revenue and viewership than an IPL season or the T20 World Cup. Yes the 2011 World Cup had its reasons for it being popular, but the flagship tourney suggested that if the context is conducive, 50-over cricket can still co-exist.

As an Indian cricket fan do you savor the 2007 win Jo’burg more than the night on 2nd April 2011? Can you name outstanding individual performances in T20Is after the successful win in 2007? Do you remember Sachin’s hundred in the IPL more than his ODI ton in say Sydney (2008) or Colombo (2009)? IPL-5 had 20+ last over finishes; can you name more than 5 of them? They say that T20 is fast, but so is the longevity of the memories associated with it. Longer the format sweeter the victory and this logic sustains for all the 3 formats.

50-over cricket hasn’t suffered from the popularity of T20 cricket but from lack of reforms in terms of scheduling and organization and too many tinkering of rules. 2004-05 was a period when the ICC felt that ODI cricket wasn’t doing well, so instead of finding ways to restore its popularity, they modified rules. Fast forward the years and you will find, that the administrators have felt that tinkering of rules is the only way to uplift ODI cricket. Reduction in number of matches in a year or reduction in number of matches in a bilateral series, or doing away with pointless series or scrapping the meaningless Champions Trophy haven’t been on the agenda.

The proposal of having only Test & T20 cricket could appear logical for certain reasons, but do you have players to adapt to either formats? Ponting, Clarke, Dravid, Tendulkar recognized that T20 cricket wasn’t their kind of cricket, not in the sense of skills and temperament but in terms of quality of competition. Shorter the format more the level playing field for competing teams. West Indies vs India could churn out a close T20 match but one-sided boring ODI & test matches. On the other hand Australia vs India provide exciting, anticipative Test & ODI matches but not necessarily tough T20 matches. The key to sustain ODI cricket is in identifying context and relevance of the format to the competing teams.

Cricket has the problem of plenty (of formats), and is struggling to have everybody happy at the moment. Ex-players, cricket analysts and media experts have suggested at abolishing ODI cricket. The thought to advocate for existence of ODI cricket may not be a representative view, but a spectator’s view nonetheless! ODI cricket may not be the crowd puller any more, it may not command the same interest as it used to, but through to good planning and management efforts should go in to sustain the format.


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