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