CLOSE-IN: One-day cricket loses its shine

By Yajurvindra Singh

21st of January: The waning interest in Test cricket led to the emergence of the limited-overs version. Time became an important commodity and watching cricket for five days became a luxury. Moreover, the world was changing as people wanted a result in the end and so a draw in cricket was disallowed.

Cricket lacked a platform where the best teams could compete against each other in a short amount of time to anoint a world champion. The 1975 World Cup in England became an ideal setting and winning the championship side of the West Indies was just the icing on the cake.

The West Indies were the best side in the world at the time and for them to win the Cup in 1979 as well, the World Cup was felt to be an ideal indicator of how to greet a champion. The first three World Cups were played as a 60-overs-a-side format and some matches became a two-day affair.

India, winning the cup in 1983, was the best result for world cricket. The Goliath of cricket, West Indies, were eventually dethroned by the David of cricket, India. A minnow Asian side beating the world champions was just the ingredient that prompted millions of fans to follow the match again. In 1985, the two Asian giants, Pakistan and India, were in the final at the One-Day Champions trophy in Australia. This resulted in a decline in the aura and superiority that Australia, England and the West Indies had for more than a century of cricket.

In 1987 the Cup was played in India and Pakistan and due to the daylight crowds, the matches were reduced to a 50-overs affair. The shorter format became the norm for all future cups and several rule changes came into effect to make the One-Day Internationals interesting and exciting.

The introduction of the popular World Cup T20 cricket and the Test World Championship, it is felt, is causing the ODI to lose its luster. The popularity of Test cricket has gradually risen again to be recognized as the Holy Grail of cricket and cricketers are seriously measured by their performance in it. The limited-overs versions have resulted in cricketers playing test matches much more aggressively. The gloom and dullness that had crept into Test Cricket has slowly given way to thrilling stroke play and deadly bowling feats. Conditions around the world are different and therefore the uncertainties faced by the cricketers have added an extra interesting element. A cricketer is now judged on how good he is by his performance in the conventional form of the game, Test cricket. This is really fantastic for the royal game.

The T20 format has adopted the glamor of the 50-overs version. The innovation, uncertainty and intensity you see in the T20 has made watching that much more interesting and engaging. The simple slam-bang cricket has made it easier for every age group of viewers, which is why it has become a family sport to sit and enjoy together. The added beauty is that you don’t have to get into the core of the game like technique and deep knowledge to follow it.

The 50-overs One-Day International has become a rather dull and unexciting game. The first and last 10 overs of the game are the only interesting periods. The first is because one has to measure wicket and game conditions and how a team is doing in power play while the last 10 overs for either an attacking side or a chase to win or get a good score is the other interesting moment.

The 30 overs in between have become a boring affair. The fielding team usually has only one mission, and that is to give away as few runs as possible. On the other hand, the side batting finishes the bowling to create a good platform to launch into an attack later.

This cat-and-mouse or sparring duel between bat and ball has made the ODI a tedious affair. The strict bowling and fielding restrictions have made the bowler a non-entity, as one only hopes the batsman makes a mistake. As for the batter, one can get a decent score without actually taking unnecessary risks.

The ICC needs to take a serious look to make the ODIs more exciting and durable to play and watch. With the introduction of the T10 and 100 balls-a-side, the 50-overs version is under serious threat.

One thought would be to cut it down to a 40 overs-a-side format. The other would be to have two innings of 25 overs each. Perhaps the latter is a better option, as most fans want to see the best batsmen and bowlers in action.

If the ODI continues in its current fashion, it will surely lose its luster and end up in a dull and dull format. It is now up to the ICC to spice it up. For that, they need someone like Kerry Packer, who changed the face of cricket in the 1970s.

His cricket innovations have been followed ever since.

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