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Does ODI cricket have a future?
Ian Chappell and Sanjay Manjrekar speak to Harsha Bhogle about the challenges for the 50-over game (32:47)
June 16, 2010
Related Links » News: 'ODI cricket will grow stronger' - Lorgat | Don't change the rules, play better | What do we replace ODIs with? | ICC to watch split-innings experiment | CA confirms split-innings one-dayers In Focus: The future of ODIs Video & Audio: The end of the 50-over game? | Switch Hit: To split or not to split? Series/Tournaments: Asia Cup Other links: In Focus: The future of ODIs
Time Out with Harsha Bhogle
Does ODI cricket have a future?June 16, 2010
Harsha Bhogle: Welcome to Time Out, and this time we have got our old friends back on the show, Sanjay Manjrekar and Ian Chappell. Today we are going to talk about all the debate, emanating mainly from Australia, about the future of 50-overs game. There is an Asia Cup that is happening in Sri Lanka, and so one-day cricket is back in focus. But we are going to talk about the various alternatives that have been thrown up in Australia - whether you play two separate 25-overs game, do you continue the game, or do you keep it as it is. That's going to be the main focus of our discussion. While on the Asia Cup, we will ask Sanjay Manjrekar if he has got any special memories of the Asia Cup, he has played a couple, and then we will go across to S Rajesh, for his thoughts on the number of ODIs that are being played in recent times.
Let's start with the Asia Cup that is underway now. The Asia Cup started a couple of decades ago, it was meant to be this big tournament for the Asian block. Maybe an opportunity as well for the younger teams, the other teams like the Omans, the Hong Kongs, the UAEs, to get their chance in the sun to try and prove that they have an opportunity to impress on the big stage. It's not happening in this Asia Cup, and that suggests to me that the Asia Cup has lost its focus a little bit. Sanjay, you've played couple of Asia Cups, do you like the idea? Do you ever see it become big, say like the European Championship that they have for football?
Sanjay Manjrekar: To be honest, no. When I played the Asia Cups it was no different from all the international matches that we played. We played so much of cricket in Sharjah, that every time it was called something different. Sometimes it was the Australasia Cup, sometimes it was the Asia Cup. If you ask the cricketers who played in the 90s, and played loads of one-day international cricket whether they would remember Asia Cup as a different tournament, it merged with the other cricket that we played. So it didn't quite get the significance that it should get.
HB: For example, if you ask a footballer, if you asked a Dutch footballer and ask him how was Euro 2008 different from World Cup 2010. It may not be quite the same as World Cup, but it will still be a big event for him to play the Euro. Nothing like that with the Asia Cup?
SM: Nothing like that. It was just one of the many international matches that we played. You can say that the World Cup is different, and maybe to an extent, the Champions Trophy. Asia Cup at the time it came, and even today I don't think that it has the status that it should really have.
HB: Ian, last time there was an Asia Cup, you and me were sitting in a studio in the middle of the night in Singapore. Do you think tournaments like these can become big and significant?
Ian Chappell: No, I don't see it happening. I am not sure if it was the original idea, but at some point the idea was to generate funds for the lesser Asian countries, and I think there are better ways of doing that. And also the other idea was, as you mentioned, to give some of the lesser teams games against the major countries, but that is not happening now.
SM: The other important reason why we had Asia Cups back then was because India-Pakistan cricket was big, and everybody looked at an opportunity to get India to play Pakistan. Now, touring Pakistan during a certain time wasn't easy, and the same was true for Pakistan. So Asia Cup became a convenient where you could have it in a neutral country and have India-Pakistan play the final. So that was, I think, one of the reasons why Asia Cup was staged quite often during that time.
HB: India haven't played Pakistan for a while, so India-Pakistan will be one of the games you look forward to. But India-Sri Lanka, Chappelli, can you follow India-Sri Lanka at all? It's a bit like a term exam; you get one every three months.
IC: I wasn't very good at exams, so I guess I am not very good at following India-Sri Lanka. But they do seem to have played a lot lately.
HB: So do tournaments like Asia Cup eventually end up just adding to the vast number of one-day internationals without a lot of significance. One of the dangers that afflicted one-day internationals, which was a wonderful form of the game when it started, is there are too many of those without too much relevance.
IC: The problem is that if you use the term meaningless to a cricket administrator then he will immediately say that they are not meaningless because we get full-houses at lot of the games, and so they are meaningful in that we get a lot of funds from these games. I counter that two ways. One, your sole reason for having a tournament of match cannot purely be financial, it got to be little deeper than that. Two, I think eventually if you just play too many games that don't seem to have too much significance then the players play in that sort of fashion. And I think most people accept the fact that the problems with match-fixing in the late 90s and early 2000, a lot of it came from the fact that the players felt that they were playing in a lot of games that did not have meaning. Therefore, it was felt that it was easier to fiddle around with those games. So I have been a believer for a long time that the way to look at the cricket programme is to go for more quality and cut back on the quantity.
SM: When I was playing for India, we were playing a lot of international cricket. During one of those times, I was taking another flight to play another one-day tournament, and I met one of these guys who are involved in television marketing, people who sell the game and make money. I told him, "Don't you think this is a bit too much? Aren't you giving viewers too much cricket?"
He took me for a fool and his reply was, "Are you kidding, they want more. And if you give them more then they want even more." But I think the time has come today where the Indian viewers, who was most hungry for cricket is starting to say enough. If you talk to cricket fans, and I talk to numerous cricket fans, and I just ask them if they are following the series that is going on, to which they reply, "Yes, watched a couple of games but there is just too much cricket, and so I have not been able to watch it as much as I would have liked." And they don't watch it as passionately, and they are not following international cricket, even the Indian cricket team, as seriously as they used to.
HB: It's an interesting thought that. Chappelli brought out the cricketers' aspect pretty well. I was going to come to you with the other actor in the drama, which is the common man. Television networks are saying that we are still getting viewership, we are still getting sponsors lining up, and the one-day game is still the big cash cow, because it has got more commercial breaks than any other form of the game can ever have. So while the players are saying, "Not to sure about one-day cricket." The people who run the game, as Chappelli just mentioned, are saying, "No, it's still a damn good product."
SM: They would like to think that way, but there are signs that the interest is just going down. Are there signs that one-day cricket is going to hit another high in the next 10 years, or do you think that one-day cricket is at the same kind of level of excitement or success as it was 10 years back. I think there are clear signs now that people are waning off. They are still watching it, they are still making money, but I don't think it is showing an upward graph as far as people's interest is concerned.
HB: Chappelli, Australia has been in forefront for the change in the one-day cricket. It's been saying that one-day cricket needs to be revamped, we need to take a new look at it because audience has started falling in Australia. So do you think time has come to look at one-day cricket differently?
IC: Well, they have been fiddling with one-day cricket for quite sometime now. But I look at most of what they have done as gimmicks. The problem with gimmicks is that they have limited lifetime and when they run their course, what do you do?
You've got 20-overs of Powerplay now, and people are saying that overs other than the power-play overs are the problem with one-day cricket. So eventually what happens - you have 50-overs of Powerplay? The classic example of a gimmick was the super-sub, and it didn't even last 12 months. Now, if you are going to make changes to the game then you've got to have confidence in it that it will be successful. If it's not going to last for more than 12 months then you shouldn't do it in the first place.
I think the part of the problem with 50-over cricket is that it is becoming very formulaic, and I think the Powerplays are contributing to that. I think the batting side is saying that we are going to go like hell in the power-plays and in the overs in between we are going to try and pick five or six runs an over without taking much risk so that we have wickets in hand. And if you've got a game of cricket where the batting is playing without risk and the fielding captain is allowing them to do that, then you've got a boring game on hands.
In the end, the crux of the matter is that it doesn't mater what legislation you have; you cannot legislate for ordinary players or ordinary teams. I think there is a way too big gap between the haves and have-nots, and that is a part of the problem. You've got about four teams, maybe five… if you put any combination of them together then it's pretty competitive. You go outside of that and it can be very one-sided, and a one-sided game of cricket, doesn't matter how many overs you are playing, can be pretty tedious.
HB: So let's get down to all that people are talking that can be done with one-day cricket, and let's see if it fits Chappelli's definition of the gimmicky or whether it has long-term implications. Some of the examples that stride out are, to increase the number of players from 11 to 12, 13 or 14. The thinking behind is that the best batsmen always play the best bowlers, and therefore you play six bowlers and eight batsmen; that was one school of thought. The other of course was the super subs, the power-plays … to try and get the game faster.
Now people are saying let's make it a two-innings game, and when you do that there are again two alternatives. One, at the 25-over point do you pause the game and restart the innings, for example if you were 100/4 in the first innings do you come back for 100/4; or as Channel 9 has now asked Cricket Australia to do, do you then go back and say we want two separate 25 or 20 overs game, so that the lead batsman can bat twice. Do you like any of these ideas at all? Or do you like the good old one-day international or do you think Test cricket and Twenty20 or only Test cricket? What's your thought Sanjay?
SM: Harsha, to be very honest I am getting to a stage were I am tired of suggesting gimmicks or changes to make it attractive. So basically what we are looking at is a sport that is really struggling to sustain everyone's interest.
We haven't tinkered with Test cricket because there is no complaint against quality of cricket and the action, which is excellent. But the problem with that form of the game is that it is far too long, five days, seven hours a day. Then you have 50-vers cricket, it is shorter but as Chappelli said, that there are two teams, who are at least 65-70 percent of time, are not trying really hard to raise their game. A team is happy to pick up ones ands twos, the fielding side is happy to give those ones and twos.
HB: It's a non-aggression pact as someone called it.
SM: The administrators and broadcasters are saying that the 50-vers cricket is fine, it's making a lot of money… then why are they looking at so many changes. So they obviously see that there is something seriously wrong. Well, good luck. Let's try lot of things, let's try anything new that comes to mind. But I have come to this dangerous realisation that I am actually in a sport that is really struggling to be very attractive to a lot of people.
HB: Well, Dhoni has played a lot of one-day cricket and he says that he likes the one-day format of the game over Twenty20. He says that it allows a quality player to have a bigger say in the game than in a 20-over game. But Chappelli what do you think of all that is happening between Channel 9 and Cricket Australia, about splitting it into two halves, 20 or 25 overs.
IC: The first time I heard a suggestion that the innings be split was probably during the World Series cricket, which is really 30 odd years ago. And at that time I thought it was a pretty good idea. One reason was that it will eradicate any inequalities in the game; both teams have to bat at night, and if there is a dew factor in the game then both teams have to deal with it. I also like it from the point of view that you have to sort your tactics out. For instance, at the end of your 25 overs that you are 4 for 120, and you are worried that you won't have enough batting left. So maybe you have to structure your batting order so that you almost guarantee yourself that you do have some batting left in the second half. So I like it from that point of view.
|"If you want only Test cricket and Twenty20 cricket then come out and say that that's what you want. But don't try by self, to eradicate the 50-overs game" Ian Chappell|
Now, if you do what some are suggesting in Australia, have 10 wickets for both games then to me it means two things - you are either trying to get more Twenty20 over cricket or you are trying to get rid of the 50-overs game; because that's all it is going to become, four innings of Twenty20 over cricket. So if you want only Test cricket and Twenty20 cricket then come out and say that that's what you want. But don't try by self, to eradicate the 50-overs game.
The other big question that I have got ask with that particular suggestion is what happens to the middle order batsmen… he goes the way of the Dodo. Because if you are going to give teams 10 wickets in the first innings and 10 wickets in the second innings then a middle-order player is going to get short-changed. That is already happening in Twenty20 cricket. If I am a batsman, then I want to bat. Michael Clarke played a tournament in South Africa, I think the first World Twenty20, he played only four balls in the whole tournament. If I walked away from the tournament as a batsman, and I faced just four balls then I would be looking for a different game to play.
HB: The big difference with splitting it the way Channel 9 is saying that it become two 20 overs matches with a deficit involved. The only additional variable that comes in is when you play your second Twenty20 game there is a deficit in terms of runs that you have got to make up. Chappelli makes a very valid point, everyone will want to open the batting there will be no middle order player. The other question, at some point once we finalise the format, is what happens when it rains in the third innings. You can understand what happens when it rains in the fourth, the first and the second, but if it rains in the third… we don't have a rule for it, just yet.
SM: This idea has been suggested in the past as well, two 20 overs game. Every time I have tried to visualise it, I haven't gone too deep into it, just the thought of two innings, all I can see while visualising is players coming in and out in a day.
HB: Like they used to in a double-wicket games …
SM: Yes. For example, why would you not want to see a Ricky Ponting get a hundred in Champions Trophy as he did in South Africa? It was a great treat to watch, and people saw the benefit of 50-overs cricket. There were some good spells by some good fast bowlers, and there was one world-class innings that you would remember for a long time. Two 20-overs games or two 25-overs games means that two Ricky Pontings getting 50s or 60s …
HB: Or, if you allowed him to carry the innings over, he would still get a hundred in two different conditions …
SM: But why break the innings, people don't like breaks. We have far too many breaks on our television screens. So I am not a big fan of 25-overs cricket. I would like to actually bet that maybe it won't work. It's an experiment that people are dying to try. It's been tried at the club level in the past, they want to see it in a real tournament. Good luck to them. I have always believed that if you are tired of 50-overs cricket, you want some variation or if you want to swap 50-overs cricket with something that is not Twenty20 cricket then 40-overs cricket is my simple suggestion. I have played a few 40-overs game, watched a few 40-overs game and I have liked them better than 50-overs.
HB: Do you think all this is because it's like the television executive saying that the soap is running for too long, so let's pop off the mother-in-law and let's get a young daughter-in-law in to add more juice to the story.
SM: Yes, and I think that's been the root of all problems. Cricket administrators have actually reacted to the demands of the television rather than make a blueprint keeping in mind what is best for the game over the next 50 years. Where do you want this game to go, we have got three formats and how do we want the three formats to survive.
Accordingly, pass on the blueprint plan to the broadcasters and look for a partnership. And even if you don't find any partnership, I am sure there will be someone willing to go along with you.
HB: Interesting, there are three people here who make a living out of television, but Chappelli sorry if you didn't understand the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law reference, it's a very Indian cultural thing with all our serials.
IC: I am not a big soap watcher. In fact, I will go a little further than that … I don't think I have watched one minute of one in my entire life.
HB: You don't know what you have missed then [laughs].
IC: I think I do, and I am quite happy to go on with it [laughs].
HB: Let's come back to the basic issue though. Is there obsolescence with the format, is one-day cricket something whose time is gone? Do you need to just go ahead with Twenty20 cricket and Test cricket? Is that the way we are going to go ahead?
IC: I don't think so. I haven't heard lot of players shooting from the roof-top that they have had a gutful of 50-overs cricket. In fact, most of the international cricketers I have spoken to quite like it. But that doesn't mean that it has got a future just because players like it, because people have got to be watching.
I think we have got away from an old system, which I think was a good system, and I am talking about selection. Bill Lawry, for instance, got sacked as an Australian captain basically because selectors did not like the cricket that was being played under his captaincy. So they just said that there is one way to fix it, and so they got rid of the captain. I don't think it happens anymore, that the selectors go to the captain and say that they are not happy with what going on in the middle. For instance, if the opposition is just pushing singles and you are keeping your fielders on the boundary… if I am the chairman of selectors, I am going to go to the captain and say, "Mate, what the hell is going on." You have to react, in fact you shouldn't react but you should be ahead of the game. I will be saying to the captain that if I see any more of this then I am going to find another captain, and hopefully a better one. We have got a major problem here, because in most cases the administrators don't understand the game. If they don't look out on the field and see that it's one of the major problems, that people are going on about the middle overs being boring. That's one of the major reasons why it is boring - once the fielding captain stops trying to take wickets desperately then the game is going nowhere. And so one way to fix it is to tell the captain to get off his backside and get some action, or else he will be sacked. Then, you might get some action.
HB: Let me suggest a gimmick, though you might give me a sarcastic answer - but maybe you need to have bonuses for taking wickets.
But, the reason I am surprised that this debate has started in Australia. I believe that Australians, over the years, have played the most aggressive one-day cricket. So if there is any place in the world where one-day cricket should be most secure, it should have been Australia. But that is where the biggest debate is taking place over the futue of one-day cricket.
IC: Well, let's go back to 2005. Sanjay was here for the ridiculous Rest of the World against Australia. Let's go back to the reason that was put forward for why it came about, and that was because people felt that there were way too many one-sided matches between Australia and other countries, particularly in Australia. At that point, Australia was winning Test matches in Australia at about 70 percent or maybe even higher, and that is ridiculous. I am going to keep coming back to that being the crux of the matter. If you are going to have lopsided matches, I don't care how long they go for… even if they run them for five minutes; if they are lopsided then they are going to be become tedious. That is the problem, and now how do you fix that? Well, that's the major fix. But until you've got, I think, eight or ten countries that are pretty competitive then you are going to have problems.
HB: So Sanjay, one final word on all that's happened. You suggested 40-overs, some people are saying 25. Do you think we should keep it going for a little longer, there is a World Cup coming up …
SM: But how about, just a bizarre thought, a tournament that is played annually or maybe two years, where only the top four teams play in the world. And all the international cricket you see, which we feel is irrelevant, is actually cricket that you play to qualify to get into the top four.
HB: So the Champions Trophy, which some people think is already an irrelevant tournament, could be narrowed and make it only the top four, and you qualify to play in the Champions Trophy.
SM: Yes, so the one-day international cricket that you play every second day is the cricket that you are playing to qualify for this tournament. It will have only four best teams in the world, and maybe that tournament will have close matches as Ian suggested. Something on those lines, you've got to have something on the lines where every international match you play is not just to win a one-day series. And sometimes when you have four-match one-day series, it just kills it. What is a four-match one-day series?
HB: I think the debate really started because you had these long Test series, and at the end of it you had seven one-day international. Australia were due to play seven one-day internationals in India this October, but by some good cricket and an accident in terms of the ratings, India became number one and suddenly now we want to play Test cricket. So that tour is now down to two Tests and three one-day internationals.
But I like Chappelli's point. Do you want to play 20-overs cricket or do you want to play 50-overs cricket, make up your mind. Thanks a lot Chappelli, enjoy your evening.
For flashback, wherein Sanjay Manjrekar relives his memories of Asia Cup in mid-90s and numbers game with S Rajesh listen to the complete show.
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