September 21, 2013

Fifty overs suck

Especially when they are offered up as an afterthought. Why not give the 25-over two-innings format a shot?

Australia won the ODIs against England? Who knew? © Getty Images

I have a dream…

Well, it's an idea. Actually it's more of a muse. I don't know what it is. But I've been thinking of ways to improve 50-over cricket, because, well, it sucks.

That's right, it sucks.


Yes. It sucks. There I've said it, quite a few times. And I'll say it again: one-day cricket sucks.

Fifty-over cricket sucks. Test cricket is the best. T20 is hit-and-giggle. But one-day cricket sucks for these reasons: It is predictable. You know what's going to happen. The players have become so smart there's little room for the unexpected. A one-day innings is a template. And it goes like this: first 15 overs, go the tonk; next 25 overs, consolidate by pushing the ball down the ground for singles and keeping wickets in hand; last ten overs, throw the bat.

And repeat.

It's also on too much. Australia are about to play seven one-day internationals against India in succession for no other reason than money. Just pure, green money. Australia just played five ODIs in a row against England for the same reason.

Do you remember one of these games? It was only a week ago. Have a think. Was there an innings or spell of bowling that was memorable? I remember Clint McKay's hat-trick. Aaron Finch went ballistic in one game, though that was in a T20. Apart from that? I watched highlights packages of each game. Remember it raining. But I got nothin'.

Maybe the series would have been more memorable if it were played before the Test series. If they had the aperitif (T20Is) followed by the entrée (ODIs) and then the succulent main dish (the Ashes). Wouldn't that make more sense?

Instead we had the ODIs as a not particularly interesting dessert. It was like eating a biscuit after you've just devoured a massive roast beef with Yorkshire pudding cooked by a celebrity chef in a dining room overlooking the Thames.

And another thing a sport cannot have - and granted this might be just me given the heaving excitement about ODI cricket in the coliseums of India - is this: who cares? Outside of the World Cup, one-dayers have no gravitas. They're just… on. What's the point of them? People forget them quicker than they do failed presidential candidates.

Today there are games in countries you didn't know were countries. Fifty-over cricket is ubiquitous, wallpaper, white noise. It's like that main drag in Las Vegas lined completely with 24/7 McDonald's. Now I like McDonald's. Who doesn't like McDonald's? Delicious food. But eat too much and you will not only feel ill but also like a bad person.

Hey, did you get up at midnight to watch Australia's ODI and T20 series in England? Yes? Then you are a bad person. Perhaps ill. How much cricket can you eat? And this before BBL, IPL, BPL, SLPL, CPL, and they are just the PLs I can think of.

And while this may seem a strange question in a series of columns covering this particular subject matter, butwhat for?

The ICC's Future Tours Programme is what for. The FTP is an agreement between boards that outlines who plays who in the next five years. If someone tours Australia, Australia must tour that country.

The FTP feeds the beast and scratches backs. But like a lot of things - wine, chocolate, Russell Crowe - less is more. Yet convincing marketeers is a harder sell than Ricky Ponting's tour diaries. For how do you "fix" something that people would argue - with statistics and facts - isn't broken? Money's being generated. That's "progress", right? What's the problem?

The problem is, we could kill the game with our love for it. It's in danger of irrelevance, death by omnipresence. But the kids love the tonk, so when the revolution comes, here's what we do: merge 50-over and 20-over cricket.

Merge? Yep. Brush 50-overs and turn T20 into T25x2. Decide matches across two distinct 25-over innings. Win both innings, win the match. If it's an innings each, there's a one-over tiebreaker, smash 'n grab. Market it as T25 x 2.0. Call it Sweet Home Wham-a-bama.

Limit series to three matches before Tests. Have your six-week premier leagues. Have a World Cup. Rest of the time? Go to the beach. Play golf. See the Northern Lights of Lapland. Whatever. Long as there's less (and more) cricket.

Again, could be just me. Pretty sure it is not. Fire at will.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Adam on September 23, 2013, 12:58 GMT

    What mystifies me is that there are people who pay to go and watch these things.

    Please, give us one day declaration cricket on tricky pitches. 100 overs total. No limits on bowler's overs or field settings. Cricket at its most primal and exciting. Whoever wins the most games wins the series.

  • Cyril on September 23, 2013, 10:39 GMT

    Field restrictions (3 out) for 25 overs, that can be taken at any time, over by over (back to 5 out for non-restricted overs). Overs decided by fielding captain, no batting power-plays. The mundane pattern described in the article is wiped out instantly. Captains can attack at one end and defend at the other properly, the tempo of the match changes every over, potentially.

    Other ideas aren't worth considering. Placing more meaning on 50ov cricket would make the games even duller as sides become more scared of losing and play it safe.

    Personally the 40 over game that has just been scrapped in England was a super product. I'd take it to the Commonwealth Games, then go for the Olympics in 2022.

  • Ruturaj on September 22, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    I would say that T20s are even more predictable and more meaningless than 50 over ODIs. 50 over cricket at least involves some strategy (as the author says) unlike T20 cricket. Each sport involves some general strategy. Why only pick out cricket and call it boring? Even football games can become predictable sometimes.

    Personally I love 50 over cricket as much as tests. Just look at all the records 50 over cricket has given us and T20s pale in comparison. Imagine if the 5th ODI between SA & Australia at Wanderers in 2006 ('the greatest ODI ever played') would have been a 'T25x2' game. Would have been a lot less exciting, wouldn't it? 50 over cricket isn't broken. Why try to fix it?

    Simple rule: Those who don't like 50 over cricket, don't watch it. There are a lot of us who love it.

    While I agree that Australia's upcoming tour to India is unnecessary (because the return leg of the Ashes is so close), that is no reason to suggest getting rid of 50 over cricket.

  • Dummy4 on September 22, 2013, 13:36 GMT

    In my opinion, there is a place for all formats. In Australia and England ODIs might suck, but please go to ODI matches in the sub-continent - which is the heart and soul of Cricket and tell me tests are more exciting than ODIs. The sad thing that people have to realise is LOIs are the future of cricket and Tests are not even close in most of the countries. If Cricket has to become global, we know TEST cricket is definitely not the solution - 100+ years and it has now come down 2 countries that really care about it.

    Compare that with LOIs where T-20/ODIs rule the roost. ODIs may be 2nd fiddle to T-20s, but at this moment, the most coveted prize in cricket is the ODI World Cup. If it loses that status, it surely is going to be to T-20 and not tests!

    The problem with Cricket is they chop and change things everyday. Like we don't have enough rules in cricket, now.If you want to watch 2 25 over matches, just watch 2 T-20 matches. A very simple solution, really.

  • WILLIAM on September 22, 2013, 10:26 GMT

    The 2011 World Cup was surprisingly unpredictable, but generally I agree that 50-over ODIs are becoming a drag.

    The other problem though is that, with three different forms of the game, the season is a shambles. Nobody knows what's going on.

    So I am leaning towards Craptastic's view that the 50-over game might as well be scrapped. We could get rid of the meaningless clutter and create proper competitions for the two forms of the game at both international and domestic level.

  • Saurabh on September 22, 2013, 5:46 GMT

    Well I agree that odis are boring,and the tests the best format by a long distance.But it used to be different for the 50-over format in that it wasn't so bland and insipid as it probably is today,and this was surprisingly not so long ago.I believe its the quality of players and sides that have contributed to this feeling among fans everywhere.There was a time when maverick players like Sanath Jaysuriya and Sahid Afridi would find the ODIs as the perfect place to express themselves.Then there were the elegant and doughty ones- Saeed Anwar, Mark Waugh, and Aravinda deSilva, and with the bowling led by wily and metronomic McGrath, Vaas or Warne you had your day made.Sadly its too unsettled with respect to players at the moment for ODIs to be even half as good as those days. With young actors playing part you got to keep your expectations low Matt.I mean who of the current lot could make it into the top ODI team of the game?I believe none except MSD stands a chance.

  • Dummy4 on September 22, 2013, 4:22 GMT

    one of the lamest articles i ever read. people are playing 50 over cricket for money right? but its not likeable or memorable according to you! have you given it a thought that how it generates much more money than tests? coz the spectators like it more, they come to watch it much more than tests.they watch it on tv more than tests. i like tests too.. and if u say that tests are a much bigger test of skill than odis, i agree. but barring for people in your profession, nobody has the time to watch every ball in a 5 day test match. ppl just wanna know the result or watch the final day when it finally gets a bit interesting. while i agree there is an overkill and the no of odis should be reduced but u guys and some old cricketers need to admit that odis are played coz ppl pay to watch it unike tests. odi survives coz everyone wants it, tests survive coz a few old cricketers and administators want it and odis & t20s pay for its survival!

  • David on September 22, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    Agree with ya Matt, ODIs are very predictable - not so much in their results, but in their method. I now fast forward overs 10-35 of every match I tape. Just nothing of interest happens, unless it's a batsman doing something stupid. Stop limiting bowlers to only 10 overs would be a good start, nothing worse than seeing a guy who is killing it will the ball have to get taken off just so he save some overs for the end. Would also stop watching rubbish bowlers like Adam Voges or Ravi Bopara or Virat Kohli or Suresh Raina etc. trying to get away with some cheap overs in the middle. No one enjoys watching those guys bowl - get rid of em!

  • Dummy4 on September 22, 2013, 0:12 GMT

    One of the problems with ODI cricket and even with T20 is the fact that each bowler is limited to generally 1/5 of team's total number of overs. It means that part time bowlers bowl too many overs or are forced to bowl key overs. This occurs while top notch bowlers are on the field and still fresh. If there are no restrictions for batsmen maybe we need to reduce the bowling restrictions and even some of the fielding restrictions. We might just start to see a less cliched product and open the ODI to new schemes and stratergies.. Take a hint from American Football.

  • John on September 21, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    Fifty overs might suck, but 20 overs sucks twice as much. If you create a game with two 25-over instalments, it will suck 4 times as much.