Sunday, February 20, 2011

One-Day Cricket : Final Death knell or The Last Lifeline…???

While the world, especially the sub-continent, waits with bated breath the commencing of the quadrennial showpiece event, the 50 over Cricket World Cup, skeptics the world over would be keenly following it too for their own varied reasons. Fans and their frenzy aside this World Cup will be primarily studied by analysts the world over as the deciding factor on the survival of the 50 over format of the game, which already is wheezing under the overwhelming popularity of its shorter cousin the T20 format. Ironically it was the last edition in the West Indies which started this raging debate on the fate of the fifty over version. Played out for close to two months, the event failed to grab eyeballs, aided mainly by several inconsequential games and the early ouster of India and Pakistan. While Australia reigned supreme, many wondered will it be better to scrap off the longer version altogether and make room for the shorter T20 one which is ever increasing in the popularity charts. Cricketing greats like Imran Khan, Shane Warne and the likes have suggested the same. Hence all eyes will be on the upcoming World Cup in the subcontinent, which boasts of arguably the largest audience for cricket, to see if the event manages to woo the crowds back to the stadiums, and provide a much needed lifeline to this almost four decade old form of the game.

While many point to the sudden advent of the T20 game and the overkill of the 50 over one, closer scrutiny will make one realize the other related factors which have collectively lead to its dwindling popularity. Firstly, be it the 2007 World Cup or recent tournaments, the number of inconsequential matches have gone up alarmingly. The 2007 World Cup’s format was such , that a lot of matches were being played out between the top ranked teams against the bottom ranked ones, even the 2011 edition‘s first stage has many matches like these which will hardly arouse any interest in fans. It’s no wonder then that the T20 World Cup later in 2007 was a massive success and fans greedily lapped up all the fast and furious action. Secondly, the overkill part does play, but not n entirety, else the IPL would have been long snuffed out. Hence more attention needs to be given to the way tournaments are structured. Bilateral tournaments should be restricted to three matches unlike the marathon seven match series between Australia and England, which not only results in player fatigue but loses the interest of the fans and the players alike. Thirdly, quadrangular tournaments, involving the top four teams should be played out in regularity, which should in certainty invoke larger interests than the tepid tri-series being played on these days. What defies logic in these triangular events is the now similar pattern involving two top teams and another ‘minnow’ as was seen in the India-Sri Lanka-Bangladesh and the India-Sri Lanka- Zimbabwe series last year. If the ICC is serious about saving the 50 over game, series such as these have to be done away with. Surprisingly, even the CB (Commonwealth Bank) tri-series in Australia, which was one of the few genuine competitive tournaments, has been done away with. One thing that the ICC needs to understand is that the ‘threat’ from T20 is real; there is no running away from it. People like the small, crisp yet entertaining format. But its larger cousin has room to given it is structured wisely. Simply putting in more number of matches won’t solve the problem, the number of games certainly has to come down and an itinerary has to be scheduled in a way that all the top eight teams come off playing each in other four years time. That way quality is assured and so is the interest.

Cricket pundits though are devising their own ways to counter this problem. The ECB has already suggested clipping the format to 40 overs as is being already played out in their domestic circuit. The Australian Cricket Board has recently launched a unique version of the 50 over game in their domestic arena; splitting the innings into two halves i.e. each team plays 25 overs once and comes back to bowl and so on. Purists don’t see much in this version saying it’s more like fitting two T2o games in one and would just cater to those particular audiences. It remains to be seen whether this version takes off and whether players approve of it, though the bright side is that players like Sachin Tendulkar have given their thumbs up to it. The ICC too it seems is finally keen to uplift the sagging fortunes of the One-day format, with its decision last week that said that the 2015 World Cup will have just 10 teams (instead of the 14 as is the case in the present edition), i.e. all test playing nations and no minnows, thus better chances of evenly played contests and thus greater interests. More innovative strategies like these have to be implemented to insure greater attention; the powerplay options are already generating keen interests, but one has to look to give more leverage to the bowlers and not make it entirely batsmen heavy as is the present scenario. Giving more power to the bowlers, like going easy on the leg side wide rule, or two bouncers per over or even the restrictions on the number of overs a bowler bowls, will go a long way in instilling some confidence in them, ensure greater equality in the game and in the process greater chances of some exciting matches. Bowlers shouldn’t be there just to finish their quota of overs, but they have to be made believed that their participation is as crucial as the batsmen. Pitches too shouldn’t be completely flat, as they make for one-sided contests.Memorable games which still linger in our memories are the ones in which bowlers played a huge part as the 1983 final or the 1999 semi-final showcased.

Cricket has come to a situation where it’s two formats; Tests and T20 have garnered their respective audiences. Purists will keep sticking to the age old Tests with all its charm, while the T20 with its adrenaline rush would get in new audiences to the game. But we have reasons to believe that there is room for the third form too, to coexist with the other two, as it still has many takers like Indian captain M.S.Dhoni who believes it has the ingredients of both Tests and T20s and is therefore exciting enough. One day cricket has to insure that it doesn’t get sandwiched between the two and somehow carve a new lease of life for itself. It would be interesting to see whether it grabs this lifeline and lives to tell the tale.

1 comment:

  1. very intrsting and very very informative....i didnt know abt these things like 40 ovrs match or 25 25ovrs...t20 crickt is good very intrstng but at the same time its never give the chance to every player to show there talent as its a very small format but in 50 50 its completely t20 nodoubt is very intrstng format but 50 50 is the original the actual crickt...newaz its just my opinion