November 11, 2009

ODIs - No Epitaphs Please

November 11, 2009 Posted by Vijay No comments
Though a day late, I can't but write about the fate of one day internationals in cricket. ODIs have been questioned for their relevance and the boredom during the middle overs it has created. Leading many critics, seeking modification to the format of the 50 over a side game, to retain interest in spectators against the rapidly increasing 20-20 format.

Over the past few weeks, it has become quite evident, that there is still a massive place for ODIs in cricket. Beginning with the 7 match ODI series between Australia and England in England, then the Champions' Trophy. Comparatively, the Champions' League 20-20 matches held in India, drew only a lukewarm response from television audience and spectators alike.

The reasons, for many would seem very simple. Champions League was held in India, with many of the IPL teams falling away during the league stages and the lack of Indian cricketers in the games. The Australia-England ODI series was held in home conditions in England. So is the ongoing India-Australia ODI series which has been a resounding success, with jam packed stadiums for all the matches. Home conditions one may say. But the positive to be taken is, there is no need to write an obituary for the ODI format as yet.

This brings to focus the need or the lack of it, to refine ODIs. The difference and the benefits of each of these formats cannot be ignored. While the romping success and million dollar prizes accompanying 20-20 tournaments has catapulted cricket into the global arena, ODIs are more favoured by cricket followers. It is vital for cricket to have a global audience than stagnate as just a colonial game with not more than 10 officially recognised nations.
It is quite bizarre that India, for example is fighting amongst 9 nations for the top spot. It would be a more honorable position had there been atleast 15 or more nations competing in cricket. As it is, the hype and hoopla in India for cricket cannot be written off, by such a statement. But, if there has to be 15 or 20 nations competing for cricketing glories, there is no doubting that 20-20 is the way to go. The reasons are aplenty. Being a shortened version of the game, it will appeal to young and old audiences alike. Besides, the amount of money riding on it, can always be an attraction for any aspiring sportsman.

My hypothesis could well be wrong. But, from what it looks, a 20-20 superstar player, can be a successful 50 over player. But, to graduate to the Test playing eleven, requires more than just talent. Ajay Jadeja is a prime example of this. But, as and when there is interest in 20-20, and increased participation in this format, the ICC should encourage and invest in that nation to build and come upto the 50 over format. For this sake, people of the stature of Lalit Modi have to step in and contribute to growing the format and the game itself. The IPL was such an astounding success, that Lalit Modi was even featured in Time Magazine as one of the best Sports Executives in the world in 2008.

The 50 over format is a stepping stone for any cricketer into Test Cricket. Though this is never guaranteed, there is no denying that a good showing in the 50 over format is the best chance for any cricketer to be the ultimate cricketer. To represent his/her nation in Test cricket. What makes Test Cricket so appealing is the temperament, mental toughness, physical strength, adaptability combined with talent. Playing in different countries, on different pitches and in different conditions and succeeding across the world, is the ultimate test of any cricketer. Therein lies the beauty of test cricket. While ODIs do to a smaller extent test most of these traits, it is no guarantee that a cricketer who is a good 50 over player will always succeed in Tests. While most Test players will invariably succeed one way or the other in ODIs.

The 50 over format may need some changes. But Test matches and ODIs are purely for the true cricket fan and follower. While 20-20 is just for entertainment and money. The stakes should definitely be raised for ODIs and Test Matches. To be honest, on a personal note, I favour Test Matches more than 20-20 or 50 over matches these days. There is always a reusult, there are a lot of runs, there are records broken and what not !

The batting powerplays in ODIs for example are starting to bear fruit, and it is always fun when not only the captain, but even the ardent cricket fan keeps wondering about when should the batting powerplay be taken, and the reasons for taking it or not taking it. But, in my opinion, one more way of making the batting powerplay exciting would be to force the batting team to mandatorily take it before the 45th over. This would mean, the last 5 overs would anyway produce lot of runs, but it will also mean some action in the supposedly dull middle overs from 15-45.

All said and done, ODIs are here to stay for sure. The Champions' Trophy is a good example. Exciting and close matches like the Australia-India match of 700 odd runs are still there. Even the Pakistan-New Zealand series in Abu Dhabi has been nothing short of excitement. The decider of the match was looking like a one-sided affair, until Mohammad Amir cut loose and the last wicket partnership made more than 100 runs. It was a very exciting match. Who says 50 over matches are dying ? I give a thumbs up to the format. But, with the rider that, a global reach can only be given by the 20-20 over format. Both the formats have to co-exist with Test cricket for cricket to retain its charm and tradition.