Australian news June 16, 2010

Jones hopes split innings just the start

Cricket Australia's plan to introduce split-innings one-day games is a positive step but does not go far enough, according to the Australian one-day great Dean Jones. This summer's FR Cup will feature a trial in which each state's innings is divided into two, with wickets lost and runs scored carried into the second innings.

So, if a team finishes its first innings at 3 for 120, they will have only seven wickets in hand when they resume after the opposition has had a bat. Jones is pleased to see CA thinking outside the box, but believes a better option would be to restore all ten wickets for a team's second innings.

"It [split-innings] gives the opportunity for a family man who might miss Australia batting in the morning, to see the second part of their innings batting at night," Jones told Cricinfo. "But there should be Test match Twenty20 cricket. I think that's a better game, where both teams have two innings. Then you get to see Sachin Tendulkar bat twice in the day, and see any great bowler bowl twice in the day."

It is a view shared by Channel Nine, who could be a key player if the concept is taken to international level. Brad McNamara, the network's executive producer of cricket, said Jones' plan for "Test-match Twenty20s" was preferable as the star players would be given more exposure.

"From a broadcaster's point of view the splitting of the 50 overs into two innings is something we were reasonably interested in on the proviso that the best batters got to bat twice," McNamara said in the Australian. "CA were talking about splitting the innings and only having the 10 wickets going over into the next innings, which I must admit doesn't excite us all that greatly."

While the ICC remains officially supportive of the existing one-day format, it has encouraged its members to try new innovations at domestic level and will be keeping tabs on Australia's experiment. There is a widely held view that 50-over cricket has become tired, and the former Australian one-day star Simon O'Donnell is keen to support the new trial.

"It looks well worth the experiment to me," O'Donnell told Cricinfo. "If the game of 50-over cricket was heading to where some think it is, there's no harm in being proactive and looking at a revamp. The split in itself would be such an individual and tactical team challenge, to make sure you use those overs in the correct manner."

However, Jones and O'Donnell both believe it is not simply the format but also the volume of 50-over cricket that has become a concern. In an ODI career spanning nearly seven years, O'Donnell played 87 matches for his country, but it's now possible for players to rack up that many games in less than half the time.

"The game has basically been driven into the ground," O'Donnell said. "There was so much of it and it's something that I hope we've learnt our lesson from, for the sake of Twenty20 cricket. There's only so much cricket can go around. There's only so many people support it around the world. You wonder if that's what's started to fall on deaf ears."

Jones' grand vision for the limited-overs game includes not only "Test match Twenty20s" but also stripping back the amount of bilateral ODI contests between nations. Instead, he wants to see tri-series played as World Cup qualifiers, with all one-dayers contributing points to a team's eventual World Cup campaign.

Under his plan, Australia's upcoming five-game series against England would be off the cards, unless a third team was brought in and World Cup points put at stake. Jones believes there is a very real prospect that 50-over cricket could die out if something is not done to reinvigorate it.

"I think it would because we're really bleeding," Jones said. "The golden goose ain't got too many eggs now. They've got to draw a line in the sand and say we want to make this quality cricket. The ICC has got to take over the programming and not let countries do what they want with how many one-day games they play."

Cricket Australia's split-innings plan is one stride towards revitalising one-day cricket. Time will tell if it is a stepping stone to bigger changes.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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