June 2, 2008

The death of the ODI?

The success of the IPL has made it clear that something has to give to accommodate it, and on the current evidence that something will be the 50-over game

Glam quotient: the IPL brains trust threw in a dash - or dollops - of Bollywood flavour to spice up the IPL © AFP

When you consider how much the Indian Premier League borrowed from World Series Cricket, it¹s quite ironic that its success might lead to the eventual extinction of the pajama cricket that was the cornerstone of the Packer revolution. As much as World Series cricket was about fair pay, improved TV coverage and superior marketing of the sport, it was also about establishing one-day cricket as a distinct entity, played in coloured clothes, under lights, and in front of crowds that came expecting to be entertained.

It was razzmatazz with some substance. Packer¹s focus was on gladiatorial fast bowlers, and the strokeplayers that could take them on. Three decades later, the IPL advertised its players as warriors. When Andy Roberts fractured David Hookes¹ jaw with a vicious bouncer, people knew that the World Series wasn¹t some hit-and-giggle enterprise. The IPL had a similar moment, when Zaheer Khan left Dominic Thornely looking like a young Mike Tyson had seen to him. Packer was a pioneer and an original, and the IPL¹s copycats succeeded because they took his blueprint, adapted it to an Indian context, and threw in a dash of Bollywood for good measure.

This year, after an uninterrupted run of 28 years, Cricket Australia pulled the curtain down on the annual tri-series. It¹s fair to say that its decline had mirrored that of the one-day game. After the spectacular success of the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, and the inaugural IPL season, the one-day game is on life-support, and it may only be a matter of time before the plug is pulled. Crowds and television audiences caught in the thrall of the Twenty20 game are unlikely to shed a tear.

It¹s amusing to hear greats of the past talking of how the IPL¹s success could have dire consequences for Test cricket. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Test-cricket constituency is a distinct one, and it generally consists of people who have played the game at some level, whether that¹s back garden, park, first-class or international. More importantly, it¹s a group of people that appreciate what Milan Kundera called Slowness, those not obsessed with instant gratification.

Such fans will never abandon Test cricket for the crash-bang-wallop thrills that Twenty20 offers. He or she may go and watch Dumb and Dumber, but it¹s never going to replace 400 Blows or In the Mood for Love in his affections.

Sadly, one-day cricket has no identity. In that respect, its like your stereotypical Bollywood movie with the hackneyed script that tries to have something for everyone, and ends up having nothing. It says much about the lack of imagination of those that administer the game that the 50-over game has evolved so little since the Packer years.

Compare that with Lalit Modi. You may not like the man or his hubris, but he has taken an existing concept, fine-tuned it, and ensured that the cricket world will never be the same again. After Sunday night¹s final, which could have been scripted by Gregory Howard of Remember the Titans fame, Modi and the IPL hold all the cards, while the ICC and other boards have next to nothing to bargain with.

The last World Cup in the Caribbean was a fiasco, an object lesson in how not to organise an event. Poor crowds, overpriced tickets, a lack of atmosphere and an interminable schedule all combined to make it perhaps the worst of all major competitions. In contrast, the IPL¹s head honchos didn¹t behave like stentorian schoolmasters, and the entertainment package that accompanied the games attracted everyone from five-year-olds with temporary tattoos to middle-aged women who had decided to forego a staple diet of TV soaps.

Where now for the IPL? After what happened on Sunday night, there¹s little doubt that the second season will be huge. Despite the concerns of the ECB and others, every single one of the world¹s top players is likely to take part. If they do try to prevent the likes of Kevin Pietersen from playing, they¹ll only end up being checkmated like the Australian Cricket Board were after Packer¹s bold gambit.

What is likely to happen is this: Both England and Australia, and perhaps South Africa and Pakistan too, will endeavour to jazz up their own T20 events so that they can at least compare to the IPL. A Champions League will surely result from it, because the stupendous response in India has confirmed that people are ready to invest both time and money to watch the best play the best, even if it's only over three hours.

The franchises, none of whom are likely to be too perturbed by the huge amounts invested in the first year, also have a role to play. Manoj Badale, of the Emerging Media group that owns the Rajasthan Royals, reckoned that it would take a couple of years for the club culture to truly take root, but you can rest assured that teams like Rajasthan won¹t be spending the next 10 months idle.

The reality is that no league can prosper if it operates only over six weeks. American Football has the shortest season of any major sport, but even that lasts 16 weeks, and then a month of play-offs. The football [soccer] seasons in Europe, the NBA in North America and Major League Baseball all last much longer, which is why they become such an integral part of fans¹ lives.

What does the Indian cricket fan do now? Next up is a tri-series in Bangladesh, followed by an Asia Cup that features teams like Hong Kong. It¹s the classic champagne-followed-by-flat-beer scenario, and it will be interesting to see what the TV ratings are like. Back when Doordarshan, the national broadcaster was all we had, everyone watched it. Then, with the onset of cable TV, no one bothered.

Where now for the IPL? After what happened on Sunday night, there's little doubt that the second season will be huge. Despite the concerns of the ECB and others, every single one of the world's top players is likely to take part. If they do try to prevent the likes of Kevin Pietersen from playing, they'll only end up being checkmated like the Australian Cricket Board was after Packer's bold gambit

The IPL has created a revolution, especially in the fan demographic, but has now left town. For the moment, the talk is of creating a four-week window, most likely in April. It¹s only a band-aid solution. In the long run, we¹re looking at a three-month season where teams play weekend games and the occasional midweek one as they do in the major football leagues. Those will alternate with Champions League games featuring the top sides.

A six or eight-month period might be set aside for Test cricket and other bilateral contests, but the fact is that cricket needs a 50-overs-a-side game between India and Hong Kong like it needs a hole in the head. After watching McGrath against Jayasuriya and Warne against Ganguly, why would anyone settle for such mediocrity? Unless one-day cricket can reinvent itself, and four innings of 20 overs each is the best suggestion I¹ve heard, it has one foot in the grave, with the fact that the World Cup is the jewel in the ICC crown being the only thing keeping it alive.

It¹s an opinion that even players share. Stephen Fleming was New Zealand¹s finest captain, the one who led them to their only major one-day triumph, the ICC Knockout in 2000. ³I am worried about the amount of one-day cricket, how much appeal one-day cricket is going to have with tournaments like this,² he said. ³I think the majority feels that it could cause a problem for the international calendar.²

The response to the first season of World Series Cricket, with the forces of orthodoxy ranged against it, was so lukewarm that a desperate Packer was reduced to counting the cars in the parking lot. No one saw Modi doing anything similar, and the perfectly scripted final has guaranteed that all the franchises will be counting next year are even bigger gate receipts. As for one-day cricket, the message has been bellowed out through a foghorn. Transform or perish.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on June 5, 2008, 14:50 GMT

    haha, if odis do become worthless, imagine what players like Ganguly, Tendulkar, Jayasuriya and Dravid will think about their 10,000 worhtless runs now!

  • Kanu on June 5, 2008, 8:35 GMT

    too much odis are killing odi cricket..i think 7 t20,15 tests and 30 odis r the max that icc has set for a country in 1 calendar yr(excluding matches of icc events)..now is icc sleeping??in 2007 india's calendar included 36 odi's excluding matches of world cup(now if india would have reached super 8 stage of wc, they would have played atleast 9 matches in wc)...that means a total of 45 odis in 1yr??..thats way too much..thats what killing odis..t20 is excellent but so is odi..but too much of anything will kill it..12 tests,25 odis and 21-25 t20 shud be max that a team can play in a calendar yr(excluding icc events ofcourse)..icc must make sure that a calendar yr must not have more international matches than the specified limit for each team..a last method to revive odis is to reduce it 40 ovrs a side.80 overs match can start at 4pm and finish within 6 1/2 hrs..Result:less time consuming, lesser burn out of players but almost equal entertainment of 100 ovr odi..else odi days r over

  • gurvinder on June 4, 2008, 15:26 GMT

    No doubt 20-20 is sucess but it is more of lottery pick, and it has huge minus that grounds are small hence it is easier than odi and test to hit over the boundaries and maximum batter get out being aggresive. If stat looked bowlers who have earned there wicket compare to batter getting out in chase for quick runs % will be lower. 20-20 does not give time for a team to bounce back in game. When I say that it does not mean teams have not bounced but it is in small numbers. Any way all three forms are going to stay 20-20 for bang bang action and entertainment in short time , Test matches for quality and more gritty and grinding for both bowlers and batters and one days for entertainment with test of batters and bowlers. All three forms require different skills but all the forms of cricket is gonna help cricket for example fielding is going to improve more, mor attacking shots played in test and odi more result oriented test matches gonna be seen. and 20-20 will see more classic shots.

  • Abdulwaheed on June 4, 2008, 8:35 GMT

    I am sure after the grand success of IPL, ODI will loose its popularity except if they change to the following.

    Instead of a 50 over straight inning there should be two 22 overs innings. Some rules of Test and some if ODI may apply. In this way people can enjoy the charm of a TEST and the excitement of ODI. The name to this new event could be ODT ie One day Test.

    Regards A.Shamsi

  • John on June 4, 2008, 8:26 GMT

    Let's not get too carried away with T20 just yet! When ODI started, the game was played like First Class cricket, because that's all that anyone knew. The game evolved, the rules changed and a new form of the game emerged. ODI has been a success because of the changes made. T20 needs an identity with yet different rules and strategies to maximise the concepts already in vogue. For example, who wants to watch the tailenders bat? That's a test match concept! Why not allow each player to bat for a fixed number of overs as indoor cricket allows? They'll be fun times ahead for the game as it embraces three different styles.

  • Rajaram on June 4, 2008, 5:00 GMT

    To think that The 50 overs a side game is finished, and that the only two formats that will exist are Test Cricket and Twenty20.Left to himself,he would only have Twenty20.

    Cricket is a game of skill. Both Test Cricket and the 50 overs a side game need skill. Twenty20 is a lottery.

  • K on June 4, 2008, 3:46 GMT

    One needs to step back a little and analyze what is being conjectured here. Has 20/20 swayed an existing cricket loving population or merely added to it? Are the purists suddenly going to abandon the game? Exactly where has one seen empty stadiums for ODI's except in the Windies??? - where during the world cup apart from organizational and other fiasco's afford ability was an issue for an already dwindling sport in that country. Lead up games in a long 'tri-series', particularly on week days, often saw fewer spectators but apart from that it's all going fine. In cricket crazed India, Pakistan, SL you could devise 10/10 or 100/100 and spectators will still flock - it's where cricket is valued as much as the heroes, in fact demi gods, playing in it. Make more Warnes and Tendulkars I say...won't matter what version of the game they play!

  • Kye on June 4, 2008, 0:31 GMT

    funny how everyone is bagging out 20/20 saying it's a slug fest that doesn't require skill but yet almost all the top performers in the IPL are accomplished international cricketers - if it doesn't require skill then why are the most skilled players rising to the top? And if it's such a slug fest then why is the best batsman, Shaun Marsh, anything but a slugger? Everyone's saying it's just a batsman's game yet the Royals won it primarily on the back of their bowlers (Tanvir and Warne) and all rounders (Watson and Pathan)? People if you're going to criticize something at least get your facts straight.

  • Krish on June 3, 2008, 23:22 GMT

    I think we need to keep in mind that in the Internet age, any global sport that lasts over three hours of "run-time" won't cut it. Look at soccer, basketball, baseball - sports that are played in more than 10 countries and have their own professional leagues. Cricket, given its tenuous financial situation (other than in the Indian market) has to learn from these other sports, because eventually you are competing for the same sponsorship dollars. T20 has the right elements in this regard - a single league targeting a global TV audience and spread out over a longer period of time, so it won't wear on the bodies so much (players and audience!) gives cricket a chance to stake out its own spot vis a vis soccer, basketball and baseball.

  • Mandeep on June 3, 2008, 23:06 GMT

    There can only be 2 measures of performance in cricket,endurance and quick efficient display. Test cricket satisfies the former. A batsman basically has near infinite time to play and the bowler's aim is to break his impenetrable shield. Batsman is mostly not playing attacking shots and the bowler is constantly trying to break the armor. So that's a real test for both. SO I BELIEVE, TEST CRICKET WILL NEVER BE OUT OF FASHION (IT DOESN'T CATER TO WHIMS OF VIEWERS IN THE FIRST PLACE, MOST PEOPLE HATE IT, RIGHT!) ODI is neither a test of endurance nor it is quick and entertaining. Viewers waste a day and mostly find a dud in the end. T20 is quick, entertaining and introduces a new challenge for the batsmen and bowler (complete opposite of the challenge in Tests). Batsman is playing attacking shots. Bowler is not trying to bowl the batsman out (if he tries that, he will get belted mercilessly). SO T20 WILL STAY AND FLOURISH. SO TESTS ARE FOR PURISTS. T20 FOR MASSES. ODI's ARE FOR NEITHER.

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