Is Modern day Cricket forgetting the importance of ODI format?

MAKE ONE-DAY MATCHES GREAT AGAIN

MS Dhoni finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lift the World Cup after 28 years!” On 3rd April 2011, the MSD-led India defeated Sri Lanka at the Wankhede stadium. Ever since this sentence runs chills down the backs of cricket fans the world over. Time and time again, one-day internationals have continued to entertain viewers and give some of the best performances the game has seen. So why is it that the 50-over/ ODI format of the sport is losing its relevance? How to revive the format?

The T20s represent the new or modern age of cricket. The T20 format is currently the most popular cricket format, be it for franchise cricket or T20 internationals. While Test cricket has stood strong against the test of time, One Day cricket is starting to lose its popularity among both the players and viewers. This fall has become even more prominent, with ace England all-rounder Ben Stokes retiring from the format in what can be considered his peak form. It’s mostly because of the new regulations that were put into place in the past, as well as the T20 format’s explosive growth. Test cricket has its significance, whereas franchise cricket is still expanding quickly.

The ODI World Cup, Cricket’s grandest Trophy
Image Credits: espncricinfo.com

You may say that the ODI World Cup continues to be the most significant and well-liked competition in cricket. True, but what happens if there isn’t a World Cup? ODI cricket is not what it once was. In the modern era, one-day cricket is mostly a batsman’s sport. Everyone enjoys watching sixes and fours in a game, but the majority of ODI matches are no longer as competitive as they once were.

The big nations currently play each other a lot. This prevents the smaller nations from having the opportunity to play against powerful teams. This prevents the smaller teams from growing, as a result of which there is less competition in the ICC tournaments. The ODI Super League will allow more teams to play against each other and help the smaller teams to grow. This, in turn, will bring the much-needed competition back into the format.

The truth is that ODIs have faced pressure for almost 20 years. A foresighted Sachin Tendulkar had predicted that the one-day game, which had sustained cricket’s financial health and fan development for almost 50 years, was starting to lose significance as early as 2009. Tendulkar claimed that ODIs had become overly predictable. Except for the power-play’s first ten overs and the last ten overs, there is not much favour left in the middle overs. This was an interesting intervention because it was made by a member of the playing community, but more importantly, it was made by someone whose achievements in this format had been spectacular and brought him fantastic success.

The legendary Sachin Tendulkar
Image Credits: ICC.com

However, one cannot denounce the format completely. For starters, this format is extremely popular in the Indian subcontinent. Most matches, even with their dwindling popularity, have packed stadiums. It’s no secret that lives viewing and watching in India and its neighbouring nations, like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, generate the majority of cricket’s revenue. So it is likely to stay on ICC’s list of priorities given how much money is on the line in these nations.

Also, while casual fans of the sport prefer the T20 format, purists consider Test Cricket to be the most difficult and compelling game format. As a bridge between the game’s two extreme formats, the ODI format offers a bit of both. Along with that, the ODIs give opportunities to both the batsmen and the bowlers to showcase their skills. There’s scope for both to get into a rhythm and, as a result, give a good performance.

Keeping this in mind, there have to be rectifications made to restore the lost glory. Ditching the concept of two new-balls can be a good start. Reverse swing is a lost art. This is due to the two new balls rule, which involves one ball for each end. The art of reverse swing kept the bowlers in the game. It gave a much-needed harmony between bat and ball. But the game has shifted too much in favour of the batters. This is mainly due to two new balls, flat pitches, and narrow boundaries.

To keep the ODI format relevant and to increase audience interest, the ICC should eliminate the two new balls rule. Along with that, the return of the batting powerplay, which was a part of the game till 2015, will add a different dimension to the game. The popular Big Bash League introduced this concept with the name “power-surge”. Batsmen score runs at a rapid rate. However, many throw away their wickets. In close chases and nail-biting situations, these field restrictions will add a much-needed edge to the matches.

Australia and England played in the first-ever ODI cricket match on January 5, 1971, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Since then, there have been over 4000 ODIs, 12 World Cups, and six different World Champions. The format has seen many legends and their exquisite performances. Be it three double centuries by Indian Skipper Rohit Sharma, 43 centuries by Virat Kohli, or the India vs England final of the NatWest Series at Lord’s, this format has given cricket fans countless memories for over 5 decades. With three distinct formats, each with a distinct purpose, cricket is a truly special sport. One Day Cricket, with its strengths and flaws, is distinctive as well and shouldn’t become completely insignificant.

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