June 18, 2010

What do we replace ODIs with?

It's time to review the 50-over format, but it isn't quite clear what to bring in in its place

So Cricket Australia has just aimed another blow at the ageing provider of world cricket. The future of one-day international cricket has been debated for a while now, but with Cricket South Africa and the England Cricket Board making their positions clear as well, and going in for 40-over competitions, the once blue chip no longer seems a good stock to possess. And yet you cannot cremate someone unless you are absolutely sure he is dead, and I am not entirely convinced the good old ODI is gone.

India played Australia in October last year to full houses and resounding television ratings. England played Australia seven times shortly before that and audiences didn't seem to mind that either. Wedged between those were a Champions Trophy in South Africa (50 overs) and a Champions League in India (20 overs) that produced excellent cricket but got a thumbs down from spectators and viewers. That would seem to queer the pitch a bit; some high-profile tournaments work and others don't, so what do you do?

Those two months actually provided enough evidence that it is not the format but the contestants that people are worried about now. I asked a leading executive at Group M, who buy more media space - and therefore know audience preferences better - than anyone else, and he confirmed that in India a match against Australia or Pakistan will always deliver, but more worrisome was his assessment that non-India games don't deliver at all. The IPL, for example, rates higher than the ICC World Twenty20. But he did say, too, that in neutral games the 20-over version out-rates the 50-over game.

It tells me that 50-over ODIs are still strong in some constituencies but are skating on thin ice elsewhere. In India, England, Australia and South Africa, which are the countries that matter from a financial perspective, you will get full houses when the home team plays any of the other three, and occasionally against Pakistan. The question is: is that good enough to sustain the format as a whole? The answer is yes if you could restrict ODIs to games between these countries but since that is not possible, a review of the format warrants itself. Indeed, I fear that, as with the Champions Trophy, we will see lots of empty seats at the World Cup as well.

One idea is to play two innings but in the second carry the game forward from where it was stopped at the end of the first. The toss will not be as big an advantage anymore, the conditions will apply to both sides, and players will still have to adapt and play long innings. Most interestingly, it will make captaincy more critical

But for at least a year the ODI will chug along, with some pretty stops on the way and some forgettable ones, which is a good enough time to look at the alternatives. Forty overs, as South Africa and England have gone with in their domestic competitions, is one possibility and is not too different from what happened to the World Cup in the mid-eighties, when it came down from 60 overs to 50. With 20 overs of Powerplay there will be enough action, still some opportunity to build an innings, still the need to see off a good bowler, but from a marketing perspective it is not too far removed from the 50-over game to rid it of its current problems.

Splitting the game into what is effectively two 20- or 25-over games is like the existing Twenty20 format with the added variable of a deficit that one side will have to make good. It sounds exciting - the best batsmen will bat twice in an afternoon, and so you can have a double cheeseburger instead of an ordinary one. The question is, do you want to when you have Twenty20 internationals already? And as Ian Chappell asked forcefully recently (on Cricinfo's Time Out programme): is it a gimmick or is it something that will last a while? If you want to test different aspects of a player's skill, then it contributes nothing. It is like a one-hour movie extended to two hours.

The other idea that has some merit is to play two innings but in the second carry the game forward from where it was stopped at the end of the first. It addresses the issues before ODIs better. The toss will not be as big an advantage anymore, the conditions will apply to both sides, and players will still have to adapt and play long innings. Most interestingly, it will make captaincy more critical. It could still lead to one-sided games as now, it could mean mostly tailenders bat in the second half most times, and it will make a rain-affected game very difficult to award, especially if it rains in the third innings.

Neither of these, though, will solve the problem of the one-sided game or the one that suffers because the home side isn't involved. It requires thought and, most important, it requires trialling, but the last of the options seems to be the best alternative; if indeed you need one.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sankar on June 21, 2010, 1:01 GMT

    The idea posted by don69 on (June 20 2010, 05:31 AM GMT) is excellent. such an incentive for every wicket earned by the fielding team and for every 40 or 50 runs per every 5 overs (by the batting team) would make the contest exciting all through the 50 overs; excellent suggestion by don69, which could be fine tuned by the experts.

  • Sivakumar on June 20, 2010, 23:41 GMT

    Whats the point in splitting the innings? will it really help? apart from getting an oppotunity for the cheer gals to perform? what is the next move...split into 4 innings of 10 overs each?.... the real challenge it make it challening for the players and make it more entertaining.. can we have bowlers using different balls at different stages of the game, as batsmen are allowed to change the bats as and when they want to suit the innings (imagine Harbajan opens the bowling with an used ball and 50th over being bowled on a new ball!!)...looks like the current format and the split innings will not be able to sustain interest for a long time.

  • David on June 20, 2010, 22:54 GMT

    I enjoy ODI's and would hate to see them go completely, i agree the solution is to play less pointless ODI's and less large ODI series's with only 2 teams (4-5 ODI's isn't much fun when it's the same 2 teams)

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2010, 22:05 GMT

    Things would always u know, fall in place unless they are disturbed.Why should u bring about concepts and ideas trying to improve the game? Never would u get a full house in Chepauk during a test match unless india are on a brink of a very thumping victory.Does that mean the interest in test cricket is less?Not at all!!! People dont seem t understand that time is something everyone fails to manage.Everyone would rather prefer an one hr highlights show rather than seven hours of live action! One day cricket is now caught up between t20 and test as a type of cricket which might be soon forgotten. Leaving aside the glorious moments of test cricket , I strongly feel those one day moments will always remain in our hearts as the game was played with a lot of spirit and grit and t20 moments might be as great as those one day moments but they wont be remembered because t20 is played just for fun and entertainment!

  • Vineet on June 20, 2010, 17:19 GMT

    Reduce the # of matches played per year, there is no point having meaningless bilateral series.. and a balance between bat and ball.. a little bowler friendly pitches like 1992 world cup. I personally has stopped watching one dayers and only reason is there are so many meaningless stupid matches going on that i am bored. But governing body like ICC is not going to do that.. so forget it.

  • Harsh on June 20, 2010, 13:19 GMT

    Grammatical prepositions mistake, I meant "in the sports world". I am not here for English exam, but sometimes it does look awful. Sorry hehehe Anyway, I got another idea though. How about keeping compulsory power play from 0-5, 11-15, 35-40 and 45-50. Which will keep things interested all the time. Against good bowling attack batsman rarely take risk between 0-5.

  • Rahul on June 20, 2010, 8:09 GMT

    Their is a wise saying prevention is better than cure. I guess some of the things tht ICC can do are: 1.Reduce the quantity of meanigless ODIs and frequency of major tournaments where top team meets. It ll make both fans and players more hungry. Strike a balance between tests, ODIS & T20s 2. Prepare better pitches, bigger boundries and good outfields to balance the game and provide even contest. 3. Allow bowlers some freedom like bouncers and may be start with 2 new balls from each end. 4. Make it mandetory for captens to take a power play between over 20 to 35. 5. Allocate 2 bowlers 10 instead of 12 overs. With some of these things I am sure people will get better contests and closer finishes. ODIs will thrive in its current format.

  • Don on June 20, 2010, 5:31 GMT

    the game has plenty of good things going for it - for one, it actually allows all 11 players to bat and contribute, making it necessary to have different role players (which 20/20 usually doesn't). 2 serious problems, and as much as Ian Chappel woudl hate it they may be solved with what he would term "gimmics". but first - I agree you should get rid of both the "power overs" and the field restrictions. give the captain as much freedom as possible. now - first problem is negative fielding. captains don't go for wickets. so add fielding runs. for every wicket that falls the fielding team gets 10 runs to its credit. if you bowl a side out you pile up a tidy 100 runs before your openers even stepped into the field! second is negative batting, especially in the middle overs. so divide the game into 5 10 over segments and set a quota of 50 runs per segment. you get nothing for scoring more, but the fielding side gets a bonus of 10 runs per segment where you didn't make your quota.

  • lucy on June 19, 2010, 23:09 GMT

    The only reason to keep ODIs is that there's an ODI World Cup with lots of history that would be good to preserve. Otherwise, ODIs are a waste of time. Sure, as I type this, an exciting 50-over game between India and Pakistan has just finished. Sure, it was great, but it would have been far greater if it had been a close 20 over game. All those middle overs ... yawn. Get rid of 50 over games altogether. If you must, replace them with 2xT20 or 2xT25 - I confess as to some personal curiosity as to whether 2xT20 would be more interesting than T20, esp if the game is ABBA rather than ABAB. But whatever happens, please get rid of the cheerleaders. Unless the cheerleaders are all hunky and male and oiled and sartorially challenged, which would really bring in a new audience. (Actually, two new audiences.)

  • Vidyadhar on June 19, 2010, 23:07 GMT

    The only change in the format should be to stop messing with the basics. Remove all this field restrictions and all those great rules to favor Batsmen. Let the two sides slug it out for 50 overs or 40 overs each. Wides and bumper restrictions are the only ones worth keeping. All these negative tactics will disappear. The games will be better balanced and the better teams will have a better chance to come out on top.

  • No featured comments at the moment.