Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why will the 50-overs format be soon over?

Which are the most awaited series in cricket nowadays? Some may say Ashes, some may rate Border-Gavaskar trophy as their favourite or some may even find Aus-SA test match rivalry exhilarating. Well if I ask you to limit yourself to the “limited overs” format, IPL might be the one to go for. Some cricket enthusiast might even include Champions league T20 (though I won’t). Now let’s qualify it even further. How many 50 over series or tournaments are on your radar? You might vote for Champions trophy. Can you come up with a few more? Seems tough, isn’t it?

Now it’s the turn of the players to pick their favourites. You will find the Aussies and the Poms engrossed with the Ashes or the Indian team bragging about their No.1 tag. The Proteas consider winning Test series in Australia as their biggest cricketing achievement. Come IPL and you would find players braving injuries to showcase their talents. In fact it has even affected their commitments to their national teams.  

But amidst all these, India keeps resting its key players in the 50 over formats. Australians prefer Hussey playing Sheffield Shield matches than donning Australian colours against India. Even with the world cup due in a few months time, India are testing their bench against the Kiwis in the ODIs and the Proteas are locking horns with the minnows Zimbabwe. You would have ODI series being curtailed to accommodate Tests or T20s. So the topic we are discussing is, Is 50 over ODI losing its charm?

But what makes even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar to miss the Asia cup but play the champions league T20? Even Chris Gayle has openly stated his preference for T20s. One explanation could be that the two major motivations to perform are critical acclaim and monetary benefits. You can even add glamour to the list as well. You would find that performing in a Test match improves your pedigree more than a good show in an ODI. On the other hand glamour or monetary benefits associated with the IPLs is more than that of the one-dayers.

Even when you consider the formats of the game, one thing was clear that the purists preferred 5 day format, even when some were writing its epitaphs, and the 50-over format was favoured by those looking for fatafat cricket. With the advent of T20s, ODIs have a very viable alternative. You no longer have to miss a day at school or office to watch your team play. As professionalism (read commercialization) enters more and more into cricket, you would have national interests taking a backseat and money running the show. Don’t be surprised if cricket goes the soccer way with club rivalry replacing the national ones and ODIs being synonymous with friendlies.  Of course events like world cup will still have its share of audience but aren’t they too far and few between?  

Test matches will still be there as they are “positioned” differently from the other two formats. The other point that works in the favour of the longer (or should I say the longest) version is the long lasting history associated with it which spans more than a century whereas ODIs are not even 50 years old e.g. The Ashes, the Frank Worrell trophy or even the Indo-Pak rivalry.

Some might argue that giving new players a chance can enrich ODIs rather than endanger it even if the fans feel let down when top players don’t play. This point may have some merit but the empirical evidences don’t support it. You had teams scoring horribly low scores in Sri Lankan tri-series and the tri-series in Zim too didn’t showcase exciting cricket. The Banglawash of the Kiwis too showcases lowering standards of cricket. One might even put the abysmal state of the 50-over format to poor planning of the fixtures by the ICC. Whatever may be the reason, it’s in poor shape.

Some of the solutions could be to cut down the number of ODIs, reduce mismatched ties and use T20s to groom new teams who can later play ODIs. After all the shorter the format, the more competitive are the newcomers. But if the likes of ICC and BCCI find it economically inviable to reduce ODIs, they could very well scrap them altogether and replace them with T20s. 

Do pour in your ideas or suggestions on improving the state of ODIs (of course only if you agree that its in the doldrums)


  1. You may be right in quoting that you look forward to IPL and CLT20s and not ODIs but I believe that may not be true for everyone else. For me, I do not mind watching a T20 game but I do not really look forward to it. IPL might have created a buzz around itself, especially IPL-1, but thats primarily to the fact of presence of legends from all the teams.
    On the other hand, if there is one tournament I really look forward to, is ICC WC and to an extent Champions Trophy (Yeah both of them 50 Over World series). The fact is all have their favorite players (across borders) and favorite settings(could be format, grounds, time of the day etc.) and what people crave for is to get all of it together..what IPL does right is to bring most of it in one series.

    For Sachin's decision on playing or not playing, IPL is where the money is, ICC WC is where the real aspiration is and health is where the key is. If he was so crazy about T20, he would not have opted out of T20 WC along with Dravid and Ganguly (all of them still play IPL).

    Not denying that T20 has changed the whole look and feel of the cricket but it is still the timepass cricket.
    I believe you might have played (most of us do when we are kids) cricket on the roof or in the verandah or some place in the house along with your brothers and sisters, we play that often and enjoy it but that doesnt replace the fun of going out in the ground/stadiums and playing the real game. T20 is something similar!

  2. Hey Anony (would have preferred your name), my point was that regular ODIs are losing its sheen. Yeah, as you mentioned and it's in my post as well, ICC WC or CT do still matter but former occurs once in four years and the latter is an annual show.
    On the other hand Test matches around the world have top players playing regularly even against the minnows but they give regular ODIs a miss. On the other hand IPL and CL T20 has int'l players queuing for it. Yeah T20 int'l is not attractive as say IPLs but it could well be the lack of money as well as affiliation associated with it.
    Even when I suggest replacing ODIs with T20s, my reco come into play only if ICC & BCCI can't manage ODIs better and the present situation does show that status quo is fine. In fact taking a cue from you, I would say even T20 int'l are not being managed properly but at least IPLs and CLT20s are commercially viable.
    So in short, I am not against ODIs but against the way it's handled currently.

  3. Well written post Saket. One dayers are for sure losing their sheen because T20 is positioned directly against the 50 over format and is much more glamourous and much less time consuming compared to it. However I guess one way to revive the 50 over format would be to totally scrap the bilateral one dayers and make it a trilateral or 4-way affair. Would generate much more interest as we see that only multi team formats like the World Cup and the Champions trophy are preferred by the fans these days.
    The ICC is already trying different things like having the 2 one day innings on 2 different days. However I have serious concerns about such measures.

  4. Apurva, I do see some merit in your suggestion. In fact it's high time we enhance credibility of tournaments other than WC & CT. Asia Cup is one of them. But because ICC doesn't have well laid out tourney and they mainly change to accommodate IPLs, CLT20 or series forced upon by BCCI, a stable and strong footing is not being provided to such ODI events.
    With the mistake of Bangla Test status, they are rightly apprehensive with Tests but mis-matched ODIs are still the norm so quality of contest needs attention as well.
    As far as 2 day ODIs are concerned, I think it will take the fundamental character of ODI away so I won't recommend that.
    Thanks for your comments.