England news August 27, 2009

ECB to ask ICC to review 50-over format

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is likely to propose that the ICC conduct a formal review of the future of the 50-over format after the 2011 World Cup to protect the ODI structure amid the rise of Twenty20 cricket, with a 40-over format topping the list of suggested alternatives.

The review was discussed informally at a strategy session in London during the ICC conference in June and has come into focus once again after the ECB announced on Thursday that it was switching to a 40-over domestic format from 2010. No formal decision on a format change has been taken at the ICC level but members expect England, which has long been looking at ways to reinvigorate the shorter form, to take the lead in proposing an official review soon. South Africa is the other major nation that does not have a 50-over competition in domestic cricket.

However, any review or proposed change will have to take into consideration the ICC's current commercial and broadcast deals - primarily with ESPN - which run until 2015 and include the 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. But if the ICC board agrees on a revamped ODI structure and gets its partners and sponsors on board, the format change is expected to happen sooner.

"The ICC has event, commercial and broadcast contracts in place up to and including the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015," an ICC spokesperson said. "Those contracts, including host agreements with New Zealand and Australia, are all based on the 2015 ICC World Cup taking place as per ODI regulations. If the ECB wishes to table suggested changes to those contracts then that would have to go through due process with the ICC board and also, if there were to be a change of format, with the ICC's commercial and broadcast partners. There is nothing to stop members experimenting with other formats but the ICC is committed to three viable formats of the game - Tests, ODIs and T20Is."

England and England Lions will continue to play 50-over cricket internationally until the ICC review is complete, the ECB said. In fact, a sense of where ODI cricket is headed has been given by the ECB's new domestic competition that will be held mainly on Sunday afternoons. "The Powerplays and fielding restrictions will be the same as per international cricket but the match will be played over 40 overs," the ECB said.

Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, also pointed to the fact that "the leading one-day team in world cricket - South Africa - does not mirror 50 overs at domestic level and, provided Powerplays and fielding restrictions were the same as the international format, the skills required were very similar."

A 40-over plan had also figured prominently in a speech delivered by James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, before the ICC Members' Forum last year. "The introduction of batting team Powerplays is a good move, but more questions need to be asked," Sutherland said. "The one-day game may actually be improved as a 40-over game; perhaps two innings per team; perhaps a different number of players - 12-14; perhaps the 30-metre circle size could be different - how would this change the game?"

Sutherland said that ICC members need to adopt a more proactive stance in experimenting and trialling possible innovations for the one-day game.

"The financial success of the modern game has been built on ODI cricket," he said. "Within this current bundle of commercial rights, our short-term future includes pinnacle World Cup events in 2011 and 2015; we owe it to ourselves to ensure that ODI cricket continues to be a popular force in the game. At both ICC, and at member level, we must vigorously protect one-day cricket and generously promote it. It has given us too much to deserve less."

The ICC has already launched efforts to boost the existing ODI format by unveiling a shorter and leaner version of the Champions Trophy that will start on September 22 in South Africa. The two-venue event will host the top eight ODI teams across 14 days.

Ajay Shankar is a deputy editor at Cricinfo